SCOTUS Opinion: Justices Rejects Latest Challenge To Obamacare Under Lack Of Standing

Originally, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act required people to obtain minimum essential healthcare coverage, and instituted a monetary penalty for failure to do so. In a prior challenge to the Act, the Court ruled that the penalty was constitutional as a form of tax. Congress subsequently reduced the penalty to $0. Several states and two individuals sued again, arguing that the elimination of the penalty was unconstitutional since it was no longer sustainable under the taxing power, and could not be severed from the rest of the Act, thus rendering the entire Act invalid. The district court agreed with the challengers. The Fifth Circuit agreed the modification was unconstitutional, but thought the mandate could be severed from the rest of the Act.

The Court, in a 7-2 decision by Justice Breyer, reversed. The majority did not address the merits of the challengers’ arguments, instead ruling that they lacked standing to bring suit, thus ending the entire action. Specifically, the individual plaintiffs suffered no harm because the elimination of the monetary penalty meant there could be no negative consequences to them for failing to purchase sufficient insurance. The State plaintiffs also did not suffer harm because they could not show any increased cost to them as the result of people no longer being forced to follow the Act’s insurance mandate. Justice Thomas filed a concurrence to note that this was not an example of “the Court once again rescuing the Act,” but simply observing that none of the challengers had “identified any unlawful action that has injured them.” Justice Alito, joined by Justice Gorsuch, dissented, arguing that the State challengers had standing to sue, and the insurance mandate was thereby unconstitutional.

A link to the decision in California v. Texas is here: