The Supreme Court on Tuesday heard oral arguments in California v. Texas, the third Republican-led Supreme Court case hoping to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Based on comments at the arguments, however, this now seems unlikely. Most of Obamacare will remain largely intact—including key protections for pre-existing health conditions and subsidized insurance premiums for some Americans.
While the justices were split on the constitutionality of the “individual mandate,” which requires every American to buy insurance or pay a penalty, Chief Justice John Roberts, who cast the key vote maintaining Obamacare in 2012, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh both suggested that SCOTUS could remove the individual mandate from the law and keep the rest of it standing. In 2017, after failing to repeal Obamacare itself, the GOP-controlled Congress set the penalty for not having insurance to $0. Since the individual mandate had been upheld because it was a kind of tax, that interpretation now seemed in question. However, Chief Justice Roberts noted that “Congress left the rest of the law intact…That seems to be a compelling answer to the question” of whether Congress intended to repeal it or not. Justice Kavanaugh added that recent decisions by SCOTUS suggest “that the proper remedy would be to sever the mandate and leave the rest of the act in place.”