Mar 3, 2020 - Health

The Supreme Court could be Trump's ACA nightmare

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Supreme Court’s next big Affordable Care Act case could be a huge political problem for President Trump.

Why it matters: The Trump administration will spend the next several months urging the court to strip away some 20 million people’s health insurance and to throw out protections for pre-existing conditions. And it may all come to a head just before Election Day.

Driving the news: The court said yesterday that it will hear the challenge filed by Republican attorneys general, and supported by the Trump administration, that aims to strike down the entire ACA.

  • The move was a surprise: Machinations in the lower courts had seemed likely to push a Supreme Court appeal well past the election.

What’s next: Oral arguments in the case haven’t been scheduled yet, but following the court’s standard timeline, there’s a decent chance those arguments could fall in October — just weeks, or potentially even days — before Election Day.

  • Election-eve arguments over the fate of 20 million people’s health care coverage would be a particularly great gift for Democrats, but even if they fall after Nov. 3, this case is still a gift.

Where it stands: Polls consistently show that health care is among voters’ most important issues in 2020, and if this case becomes a big part of that debate, it's likely to disproportionately benefit Democrats.

  • Opposition to the health care law doesn’t rile up the Republican base the way it used to.
  • But as we saw during the repeal-and-replace saga of 2017 and then in the 2018 midterms, threats to those protections definitely motivates Democrats.
  • The ACA as a whole is now popular, and some of its main provisions — like guaranteed coverage for people with pre-existing conditions — have always been popular.

The Justice Department has been advocating for the end of the ACA for almost a year and had urged the courts to strike down protections for pre-existing conditions before that. But the case, despite its implications, hadn’t really penetrated the 2020 conversation so far.

  • That’s likely to change as we head into a general election with a Supreme Court case looming.
  • Trump has repeatedly brushed aside questions about pre-existing conditions, saying his administration will protect patients who have them.
  • But neither the White House nor congressional Republicans have ever put forward a plan that would ensure the same level of protection as the ACA.

Reality check: This will be the third time the Supreme Court has held the ACA’s life in its hands.

  • And though the court has gotten more conservative over that time, all five of the justices who voted to uphold the law in 2012 are still there.

The bottom line: “Regardless of the date of oral argument, the Democratic candidate will — and should! — use this case to bludgeon President Trump at every turn,” University of Michigan law professor and ACA legal guru Nicholas Bagley tweeted.

Go deeper

Biden calls on Trump to drop ACA case in wake of coronavirus outbreak

Joe Biden at the March 15 Democratic presidential debate. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden said in a letter Monday to President Trump and other conservatives challenging the Affordable Care Act that the novel coronavirus outbreak shows why they should drop their legal case.

Why it matters: The 2020 candidate sent the letter on the 10th anniversary of former President Obama signing the act into law. Biden suggested the lawsuit they're supporting threatens protections the ACA provides at a time when Americans are "anxious and afraid about the impact the deadly COVID-19 pandemic is already having on their lives, their families, and their ability to pay their bills."

Go deeperArrowMar 23, 2020 - Health

Biden: Ending DACA amid coronavirus outbreak could cost lives

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

2020 candidate Joe Biden is supporting a letter from undocumented immigrants who work as health care providers, asking the Supreme Court to consider their efforts fighting COVID-19 when it rules on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

What he's saying: The former vice president said in a statement Saturday if the Supreme Court upholds President Trump's termination of the program amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, it would leave a "gaping hole in our health care system that is liable to cost American lives."

Go deeperArrowMar 29, 2020 - Health

Exclusive: Justice Stephen Breyer on politics and the rule of law

Photo: Axios on HBO

In an interview with "Axios on HBO," Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer urged Americans to re-engage in civics and vote — and not to expect the judiciary to resolve political questions.

Driving the news: It's more than knowing that "judges are not just shouldn't-be-politicians," he said. "They're very bad politicians. Don't get involved in that. That's not your job."