GOP tries again to get high court to ax healthcare law

WASHINGTON (AP) — A week after the 2020 election, Republican elected officials and the Trump administration are advancing their latest arguments to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, a long-held GOP goal that has repeatedly failed in Congress and the courts.

The Supreme Court will hear its third major fight over the 10-year-old law, popularly known as “Obamacare”. Republican attorneys general in 18 states and the administration want the whole law to be struck down, which would threaten coverage for more than 23 million people.

It would wipe away protections for people with preexisting medical conditions, subsidised insurance premiums that make coverage affordable for millions of Americans and an expansion of the Medicaid programme that is available to low-income people in most states.

California is leading a group of Democratic-controlled states that is urging the court to leave the law in place.

The case comes to a court that now has three justices appointed by United States (US) President Donald Trump: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, who joined the court late last month following her hurried nomination and confirmation to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The Supreme Court in Washington. PHOTO: AP

The three Trump appointees have never ruled on the substance of the healthcare law. Barrett, though, has been critical of the court’s earlier major healthcare decisions sustaining the law, both written by Chief Justice John Roberts.

The Supreme Court could have heard the case before the election, but set arguments for a week after. The timing could add a wrinkle to the case since President-elect Joe Biden strongly supports the health care law.

The case turns on a change made by the Republican-controlled Congress in 2017 that reduced the penalty for not having health insurance to zero. Without the penalty, the law’s mandate to have health insurance is unconstitutional, the GOP-led states argued.

If the mandate goes, they say, the rest of the law should go with it because the mandate was central to the law’s passage.