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Capitol Correspondence - 06.22.21

Supreme Court Rejects Affordable Care Act Challenge

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ANCOR has long followed the legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act because of its provisions protecting people with pre-existing conditions, including intellectual and developmental disabilities. The reporting by Politico Pro shared below is offered in the wake of the Supreme Court’s rejection of a state-led challenge to the law:

“For once, Democrats and Republicans are offering the same message on Obamacare: The landmark health care law is here to stay.

But so are the partisan battles over the law’s future, even after the final shreds of the GOP’s decade-long effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act appeared to be demolished by the Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision Thursday affirming the law for the third time.

The highly anticipated ruling, which found a group of Republican-led states lacked the legal standing to challenge the ACA, marks a clear turning point in the long-running health care wars that have defined a generation of politics. Even the law’s staunchest foes on Thursday dismissed the chances it would face another life-or-death moment before the courts. [Editorial note: We suggest Secretary of Health and Human Services’ Xavier Becerra’s statement on the ruling as additional reading.]

‘It’s significant in that it allows all parties to move on, to either build up or tear down — but they have to do so legislatively,’ said health care strategist Chris Jennings, who has advised the last three Democratic presidents. ‘The courts are basically saying: Stop it, move on, you have every ability if you want to alter this bill, but do it by the books.’

The ruling will give new energy to Democratic efforts to build on Obamacare, through richer insurance subsidies and potentially a public option. And Republicans, who never settled on the ‘replace’ part of their anti-Obamacare pledge, condemned the law’s high costs in the aftermath of Thursday’s ruling and vowed to fight Democratic proposals to expand government coverage.

[…]

But Democrats disagree on the next steps, and Obamacare’s future could look very different depending on where party leaders steer the ship.

President Joe Biden, who campaigned on more seismic changes to the ACA like a public option and lowering the Medicare age to 60, has pulled back since taking office to focus on more incremental policies that won’t disturb intraparty harmony or the powerful health care industry. The Democrats’ Covid relief package in March temporarily boosted Obamacare subsidies by nearly 30 percent, aiming to lower costs for low-income Americans and draw more middle-income families into the law’s insurance marketplaces. Biden is pushing to make those subsidies permanent in infrastructure legislation, prioritizing them over other Democratic health care proposals.

[…]

The prospects for other Democratic health care priorities are uncertain. Biden has steered clear of substantive debate on other campaign proposals, like lowering Medicare’s eligibility age, government-mandated drug price negotiations and creating a government-run insurance option.”