On Thursday, June 17, 2021, in a 7-2 opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) in the case California v. Texas. The Court held that Texas, the other plaintiff states, and the two individual plaintiffs did not have standing to challenge as unconstitutional the ACA’s minimum essential coverage provision. The plaintiffs claimed that Congress’ repeal in 2017 of the penalty for failing to comply with the minimum essential coverage provision led to this provision being unconstitutional, and that without this penalty, the rest of the ACA is unconstitutional and not severable.
The Supreme Court found that plaintiffs did not have standing because they could not show past or future injury that is “fairly traceable” to the enforcement of the minimum essential coverage provision. Not convinced by plaintiffs’ arguments to link their past and future payments or administrative burdens as harm, Justice Breyer for the majority explained that, without the penalty for non-compliance with the minimum essential coverage provision, there is no injury attributable to this provision; in addition, the unenforceable language alone is insufficient to show an injury or threat of enforcement.
The White House released a statement following the ruling today calling it “a major victory for all Americans benefitting from this groundbreaking and life-changing law” and that the Court’s “decision affirms that the [ACA] is stronger than ever[.]”