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Analysis

Senate Confirms Barrett to Supreme Court, Focus Shifts to Fate of ACA

By Jack O'Brien  
   October 26, 2020

Barrett's confirmation to the Supreme Court occurred weeks ahead of the scheduled oral arguments in the California v. Texas case.

The Senate confirmed Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court in a 52 to 48 vote Monday evening.

Barrett, who served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, was nominated by President Donald Trump last month to replace the recently deceased Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Related: Without Ginsburg, Judicial Threats to the ACA, Reproductive Rights Heighten

Barrett's confirmation to the Supreme Court occurred weeks ahead of the scheduled oral arguments in the California v. Texas case, the ongoing legal battle over the fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was signed into law in March 2010.

She was also confirmed less than a week after the final presidential debate between Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

The Democratic nominee has criticized Trump's selection of Barrett to serve on the high court, charging that she has written that the ACA is "unconstitutional" and warned that millions, particularly those with pre-existing conditions, will lose healthcare coverage if it is overturned in California v. Texas. 

During her confirmation hearings, Barrett told Senator Lindsey Graham, (R-S.C.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, that there is "not precedent on issue that’s coming up before the court."

"It turns on a document called severability, which was not an issue in either of the two big ACA cases," Barrett said.

Related: Barrett: No Precedent Protects Affordable Care Act from Pending Challenge

The case's journey to the Supreme Court began nearly two years ago when a federal court judge in Texas ruled that the entire ACA was invalid because the individual mandate is invalid, citing the elimination of its financial penalty as part of the tax reform bill.

The case was appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals which ruled in a split decision a year later that the individual mandate is unconstitutional, though the judges stopped short of invalidating the entire law.

In early March, the high court agreed to hear the case, though a decision is likely to be delivered by mid-2021.

Related: Outnumbered on High Court Nomination, Democrats Campaign for a Different Vote

In a late June filing with the Supreme Court, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) argued that the ACA must be struck down in its entirety.

The Trump administration argued in its brief that the individual mandate, which was zeroed out as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA), cannot be severed from the remainder of the ACA and that therefore, the entire law must fall.

Related: Opinion: Judge Amy Coney Barrett is No Threat to ACA

Jack O'Brien is the finance editor at HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

Photo credit: Washington, DC / USA - October 12, 2020: On the first day of hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, supporters arrived in a special pink bus. / Editorial credit: Erik Cox Photography / Shutterstock.com


KEY TAKEAWAYS

Barrett, who served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, was nominated by President Donald Trump last month to replace the recently deceased Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has criticized Trump's selection of Barrett to serve on the high court, warning that millions, particularly those with pre-existing conditions, will lose healthcare coverage if it is overturned in California v. Texas.

The Trump administration argued in a brief filed in June that the individual mandate, which was zeroed out as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, cannot be severed from the remainder of the ACA and that therefore, the entire law must fall.


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