Trump holds firm on bid to ask Supreme Court to end 2010 health care law

House Democrats, state officials argue that the law is critical in fighting the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Tea Party Patriots supporters hold signs protesting the Affordable Care Act in front of the Supreme Court on March 27, 2012.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Tea Party Patriots supporters hold signs protesting the Affordable Care Act in front of the Supreme Court on March 27, 2012. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted May 6, 2020 at 4:57pm

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that his administration would not alter its call for the Supreme Court to strike down the 2010 health care law.

“We want to terminate health care under Obamacare,” Trump told reporters Wednesday in the Oval Office. He said Republicans hoped to replace the 2010 health care law with a more affordable alternative that maintains protections for people with preexisting conditions.

As the United States grapples with the highest number of COVID-19 cases of any country in the world, some Democrats are taking a different approach by seeking to expand government-funded insurance coverage in upcoming legislation and defending the health care law in court. 

“We’re staying with Texas and the group,” Trump said. “Obamacare is a disaster, but we’ve made it barely acceptable.”

[Ten years into Obamacare, cost and access issues abound]

The administration sided with a coalition of Republican state attorneys general, led by Texas’ Ken Paxton. The group sued in 2018, arguing that the health care law was unconstitutional after Republicans effectively ended the so-called “individual mandate” in the 2017 tax overhaul by zeroing out the penalty for most Americans without insurance coverage. 

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the mandate was invalid but punted to a district court judge questions about whether the rest of the law should stand back. The Supreme Court agreed in March to hear the case.

Trump’s comments came as House Democrats and Democratic state officials argued in opening briefs filed Wednesday to the Supreme Court that the law — known as the Affordable Care Act, or ACA — is critical in fighting the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Although Congress may not have enacted the ACA with the specific purpose of combatting a pandemic, the nation’s current public-health emergency has made it impossible to deny that broad access to affordable health care is not just a life-or-death matter for millions of Americans, but an indispensable precondition to the social intercourse on which our security, welfare, and liberty ultimately depend,” the House’s brief reads.

The Trump administration and the states seeking to overturn the law are expected to file response briefs next month.

If the law is struck down, approximately 20 million people who have gained coverage because of it would be uninsured and protections for people with preexisting conditions would be eliminated. Some Democrats warn that COVID-19 infection could become a preexisting condition that would currently be covered by the law.

The Trump administration has not said how it would maintain coverage for people or guarantee coverage for preexisting conditions if the Supreme Court agrees to strike down the law. In 2017, Republicans in Congress fell short in their effort to roll back parts of the law.

While the Supreme Court has not said when it will hear oral arguments, they could take place before the Nov. 3 election, possibly solidifying health care and the law as a major campaign issue. In the run-up to the election, Democrats hope to replicate their focus on health care that helped them take back the House two years ago.

“Today’s efforts to destroy every aspect of the ACA are yet another horrifying example of Trump’s callous disregard for the struggles of everyday people all across the country,” former Vice President Joe Biden, the expected Democratic presidential nominee, said in a Wednesday statement. “If Trump and the Republicans get their way, it will mean devastation for our health care system that will cause untold pain and suffering.”