Amid reports that the novel coronavirus has infected nearly 10 million people in the United States, the Supreme Court began hearings on a case to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Republican-led states brought the suit against the ACA with Trump administration support, while Democrat-led states are opposing the suit. Republican plaintiffs argue that because Republicans zeroed out the financial penalty for not buying insurance, the ACA’s individual insurance mandate is unconstitutional, and the whole law should be overturned.
The ACA has survived two previous Supreme Court challenges. However, Republicans’ unprecedentedly hasty confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett poses a new risk to the law. Legal analysts have predicted that the case against the ACA is too “far-fetched” to convince even the conservative Court to eliminate the law completely. However, with millions of people’s healthcare access at risk, the stakes are simply too high to count on the Supreme Court.
Fortunately, a simple legislative fix could render the entire case moot. Congress could invalidate plaintiffs’ argument by reinstating a financial penalty (even a penalty as small as $1) for not having insurance or by repealing the individual mandate itself. Congress must act immediately to defend the ACA.