US Supreme Court Upholds Obamacare, Preserves Health Care For Millions

(FILES) In this file photo the US Supreme Court building is seen in Washington DC on April 17, 2021. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP)

 

The US Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a bid by Republican-led states to overturn Obamacare, safeguarding the health insurance of millions with the coronavirus pandemic still a threat in much of America.

In a 7-2 decision, the nation’s highest court upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA), former president Barack Obama’s signature health care program, ruling that Texas and the other 17 states did not have standing in the case.

President Joe Biden, who was Obama’s vice president when the ACA was enacted, called the court ruling “a big win for the American people.”

“With millions of people relying on the Affordable Care Act for coverage, it remains, as ever, a BFD,” Biden said. “And it’s here to stay.”

“BFD” is a reference to a comment Biden whispered into Obama’s ear at the 2010 ACA signing ceremony, when he said: “This is a big fucking deal.” Biden’s remark was picked up by live microphones.

The White House said this month that more than 31 million Americans currently receive their health care through Obamacare, which Republicans have unsuccessfully attempted to have thrown out in Congress and in the courts on numerous previous occasions.

Other Democratic lawmakers welcomed the court decision.

“Thanks to the tireless advocacy of Americans across the country and the work of Democrats in Congress, the Affordable Care Act endures,” said Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives.

“Despite every desperate right-wing attack to rip health care away from millions of Americans, the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and it’s here to stay,” said Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

“Now let’s get to work to improve it so every American can get the care they need.”

Former president Donald Trump had pledged to eliminate the ACA but his efforts repeatedly failed and he never presented an alternative.

– ‘Lack the standing necessary’ –

Four of the conservative justices on the court — including two appointed by Trump and Chief Justice John Roberts — joined their three liberal colleagues in voting to uphold the ACA.

Conservative justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, who was also appointed by Trump, were the dissenting voices.

Under the ACA, poor adults have access to the Medicare program normally open only to retired people over 65; young people under 26 can be covered by their parents’ insurance; and people whose preexisting medical conditions led to their being denied commercial health insurance have coverage.

Attorneys for the Trump Justice Department and Texas-led states had argued that the entire ACA is unconstitutional because of legal questions over consumer penalties for people who do not obtain insurance.

“Hence, they believe the Act as a whole is invalid,” Justice Stephen Breyer said in the opinion of the court.

Breyer noted, however, that Congress had removed the penalties compelling people to buy insurance in 2017 and the plaintiffs could therefore not prove they had suffered any injury which would allow them to bring the suit.

“We do not reach these questions of the Act’s validity, however, for Texas and the other plaintiffs in this suit lack the standing necessary to raise them,” he said.

Obamacare has survived two previous Supreme Court challenges — in 2012 and 2015 — and has grown in popularity among Americans over the years after a rocky start.

AFP

Trump Administration Asks US Supreme Court To End Obamacare

A photo combination created on May 9, 2020 of former US President, Barack Obama and current US President, Donald Trump.
A photo combination created on May 9, 2020 of former US President, Barack Obama and current US President, Donald Trump.

 

 

US President Donald Trump’s administration asked the Supreme Court Thursday to strike down Obamacare, which has provided health insurance to tens of millions of Americans.

The third challenge to the landmark law, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, comes as the United States records some of its highest coronavirus infection rates since the contagion hit the country.

Under Obamacare, millions of Americans are required to buy health insurance or face a tax penalty.

But in 2017 Congress eliminated the fine for people who failed to sign up — known as the individual mandate — removing a key part of former President Barack Obama’s policy.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) argues “the individual mandate is not severable from the rest of the Act.”

Because of that “the mandate is now unconstitutional as a result of Congress’s elimination … of the penalty for noncompliance,” it said in a late filing.

As a result “the entire ACA thus must fall with the individual mandate.”

The DoJ also argues that ACA coverage protecting people with pre-existing conditions — rules that mean insurers cannot refuse customers because of their age, gender, or health status — should also be overturned.

The Supreme Court will hear the case in its next term starting October, but US media reported that it is unlikely to be examined before the presidential election in November.

Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned the Trump administration’s move and called it an “act of unfathomable cruelty” during the pandemic.

She claimed if passed 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions could lose the ACA’s protections, and as many as 23 million citizens could be left without any insurance.

“There is no legal justification and no moral excuse for the Trump Administration’s disastrous efforts to take away Americans’ health care,” she said.

The US has been particularly badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic — and unlike Europe and parts of East Asia, has never climbed down from its peak.

Twenty-nine states are now experiencing fresh surges, with almost 40,000 new cases recorded, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

US health officials now believe based on antibody surveys that about 24 million people may have been infected at some point — 10 times higher than the officially recorded figure of around 2.4 million.

 

 

-AFP

US Judge Rules Obamacare Unconstitutional, Democrats Vow To Appeal

In this file photo taken on January 18, 2017, US President Barack Obama pauses during his final press conference at the White House in Washington, DC. PHOTO: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP

 

A federal judge in Texas ruled late Friday that the US health care law known as Obamacare is unconstitutional — a ruling that opposition Democrats vowed to appeal.

US District Judge Reed O’Connor’s 55-page ruling came in a lawsuit filed by several Republican state attorneys general opposed to the federal government health plan, known officially as the Affordable Care Act.

Conservative Republicans have long opposed the plan, signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010.

The case is likely to reach the US Supreme Court, where the five justices in the nine-judge court who voted to uphold Obamacare in a separate case in 2012 are still on the bench.

O’Connor’s ruling said that the full Obamacare program was unconstitutional because in last year’s tax overhaul, Congress eliminated a penalty for people who failed to sign up for the program if they did not already have their own health insurance.

The 2012 Supreme Court case was over whether such a penalty was legal — but now that it is gone, O’Connor says the whole Affordable Care Act should be stricken down because the provision is “the keystone” of the program.

President Donald Trump, who has long criticised Obamacare and vowed to repeal the program, lost no time in tweeting his opinion.

“Wow, but not surprisingly, ObamaCare was just ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL by a highly respected judge in Texas. Great news for America!” Trump wrote.

“As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster!” he said.

Trump urged Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and likely incoming Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and to “pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare.”

‘Monstrous endgame’

Angry Democrats blamed Republicans for what they see as a debacle that will leave millions of Americans without healthcare and vowed to fight back in court.

The ruling “exposes the monstrous endgame of Republicans’ all-out assault on people with pre-existing conditions and Americans’ access to affordable health care,” Pelosi said in a statement.

While the court’s “absurd ruling will be immediately appealed, Republicans are fully responsible for this cruel decision,” she said.

For Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the ruling “seems to be based on faulty legal reasoning and hopefully, it will be overturned.”

However, if this “awful ruling is upheld in the higher courts, it will be a disaster for tens of millions of American families,” he said.

Opposing the lawsuit are 17 Democratic attorneys general led by Xavier Becerra of California.

They argue that the tax law changes do not mean that the whole Affordable Care Act becomes unconstitutional.

The ruling “is an assault on 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, on the 20 million Americans who rely on the A.C.A.’s consumer protections for health care, on America’s faithful progress toward affordable health care for all Americans,” Becerra said in a statement.

“Our fight to save Obamacare is far from over. We will continue to fight these efforts to take Americans’ healthcare away,” he tweeted.

The ruling came one day before the Saturday deadline to sign up for ACA coverage in 2019.

The White House said in a statement it expects the case to be appealed to the Supreme Court. “Pending the appeal process, the law remains in place,” the statement said.

AFP

US Senators Reach Bipartisan Deal On Obamacare

Gun Control, US Congress

United States senators announced Tuesday they had reached a bipartisan deal to continue a programme that helps low-income Americans purchase health insurance, days after President Donald Trump cut such subsidies.

Since taking office in January, Trump has sought to end the health reforms that took effect under former president Barack Obama allowing millions of uninsured people to get medical insurance.

Repealing the Affordable Care Act — commonly known as Obamacare — was one of Trump’s most strident campaign promises. He described Obamacare as a “total disaster” but his Republican Party has failed in efforts to repeal the reforms.

Trump has, however, cut some government budgetary support for Obamacare, and last week announced the administration would halt payments to insurers that are designed to help millions of lower-income Americans afford coverage.

He called those payments “a subsidy to the insurance companies” but said the White House would work with Congress for an interim solution before coming up with a longer-term plan.

On Tuesday he signaled he would support the bipartisan agreement as “a short-term deal.”

Reached by Republican Lamar Alexander and Democrat Patty Murray, it would fund for two years the federal reimbursements to insurance companies that are vital to sustain the Affordable Care Act.

The senators “have just announced they have an agreement,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters.

Trump had backed legislation that would dismantle much of Obamacare in favor of a program that provides block grants to states to allow them greater flexibility in how to manage insurance coverage and costs.

Some Republicans balked at supporting the bill and it never received a vote.

Trump has stressed that he believes Congress will eventually pass some form of block grant legislation next year. In the meantime, Tuesday’s agreement will “get us over this intermediate hump,” he said.

Alexander, who chairs the Senate Health Committee, said Republicans were rallying around the deal because they wanted to avoid “chaos” in the insurance markets.

“The president likes this idea. So there is an emerging, encouraging consensus, and we’ll see how far it goes,” he told reporters.

Democrats had blasted the order Trump made last week as a cruel and intentional “sabotage” of Obamacare. But the opposition party’s top senator expressed support for the agreement reached Tuesday.

“We’ve achieved stability if this agreement becomes law,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, who described it as “a very good step forward.”

AFP

Obamacare Is Dead, Says Trump

President Donald Trump declared Monday that his predecessor Barack Obama’s signature reform and expansion of the US health insurance system is defunct, after he cut subsidies to insurers.

“Obamacare is finished. It’s dead. It’s gone,” he told reporters.

“It’s gone. There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore. It is — and I said this years ago — it’s a concept that couldn’t have worked. In its best days it couldn’t have worked.”

Since becoming president in January Trump has persistently sought to end Obama’s Affordable Care Act, cutting back some government budgetary support and pressing Congress to repeal and replace it.

The effort in Congress though has failed, last week forcing Trump to order an end to the “cost-sharing reduction” program, payments to insurers designed to help millions of lower income Americans afford coverage.

“I knocked out the CSRs; that was a subsidy to the insurance companies. That was a gift,” Trump said.

“The insurance companies have made an absolute fortune with Obamacare,” he said.

But he said that, to protect people who will lose their insurance, the White House is working with Congress for “some kind of a short-term fix” before coming up with a longer term plan.

AFP

Trump Annuls Obamacare Provision For Free Birth Control

 

Casualties Mount In Trump's First Eight Months
US President Donald Trump speaks to the National Association of Manufacturers in Washington, DC, September 29, 2017. SAUL LOEB / AFP

US President Donald Trump’s administration annulled on Friday an Obamacare provision that obliged employer health plans to pay for contraception, potentially stripping free birth control from millions of women.

The move extends to all commercial enterprises an exemption already given to religious institutions.

Rights groups erupted in anger and the American Civil Liberties Union threatened a lawsuit, but the White House called it a matter of religious freedom.

The ruling expands “exemptions to protect moral convictions for certain entities and individuals whose health plans are subject to a mandate of contraceptive coverage” under Obamacare, a note published by the US Department of Health and Human Services said.

Millions of American women who had the cost of contraception reimbursed could be affected by the Trump administration’s decision, which conservative groups had been seeking since Obamacare began.

Challenges to Obamacare had reached the US Supreme Court, which in 2014 ruled that family-owned private companies could choose not to provide contraceptive coverage to female employees on religious grounds.

In May, Trump signed a decree on religious liberty ordering his administration to take account of objections of conscience on matters of contraception.

Obamacare is the common name for the Affordable Care Act, health reforms that took effect under former President Barack Obama in 2010. It allowed millions of uninsured people to get health insurance.

The powerful American Civil Liberties Union said on Twitter that it is “suing the Trump administration to block new rules allowing employers to deny insurance coverage for birth control.”

Planned Parenthood, also on Twitter, said the new rule “puts our birth control coverage at risk.”

The non-profit health organization, targeted for cuts by Trump’s administration because it provides abortion services, added that the decision on contraception coverage “shows the Trump admin’s disdain for women’s health & lives.”

Bernie Sanders, who sought the Democratic nomination for president in last November’s election, called the new rule sexist.

“It’s the latest display of Republicans’ total disdain for women’s ability to control their own lives,” he said.

But the White House framed it as an issue of religious liberty and asserted that the law was on its side.

“The president believes that the freedom to practice one’s faith is a fundamental right in this country and that’s all today was about,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.

“I don’t understand why that should be an issue. The Supreme Court has validated this decision, certainly many times over and the president is somebody who believes in the constitution,” Sanders said.

Repealing Obamacare was one of Trump’s most strident campaign promises. He described Obamacare as a “total disaster,” but his Republican Party has failed in efforts to repeal the health reforms.

AFP

Mccain Torpedoes Republican Effort To Repeal Obamacare

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 18: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is trailed by reporters in the Senate Subway before the Senate takes up the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2018. Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP

US Senator John McCain announced Friday his opposition to the latest Republican attempt to replace Barack Obama’s signature health care law, likely dooming the repeal effort.

It is the second time in two months that he has defied his party and President Donald Trump over efforts to replace the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as “Obamacare,” which has long been in Republicans’ sights.

“I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal,” McCain said of the bill proposed by fellow Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, adding he believed health reform legislation needed to be a bipartisan effort.

President Trump, speaking in Alabama late Friday, acknowledged the setback but vowed to fight on.

“I have to tell you, maybe it’s a little tougher without McCain’s vote,” he said at a rally in Huntsville.

“You get knocked down and then the bad ones stay on the stool and they say ‘We quit, we quit.’ The great ones get up and they end up winning. That’s what we are going to do.”

In July, McCain made a dramatic return to Washington from Arizona after a brain cancer diagnosis to become one of three Republican senators who helped sink their party’s earlier bid to replace Obamacare.

Now, rebels within the party ranks appear set to torpedo what may be the party’s last chance to make good on a longstanding Republican goal, and a signature pledge of the president.

With both McCain and the conservative Rand Paul opposed, it would take just one more Republican defector to prevent the bill’s passage before a deadline of September 30, the end of the fiscal year. At least two party moderates Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are known to have serious reservations.

The bill’s collapse would be yet another blow to the president and the Republican leadership, who have been unable to move forward on repealing Obamacare despite controlling Congress and the White House.

In coming out against the latest bill, McCain criticized the fact that it had bypassed regular Senate order, and noted that it would not be fully reviewed by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) before the end of the month.

The senator said he could not “support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will effect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it.”

Trump Targets Defectors

The bill’s supporters might be eager to avoid a CBO score. In July, the non-partisan body projected that the ranks of the uninsured would grow by 23 million Americans, and premiums would rise 20 percent annually, over the next decade if the previous Obamacare repeal bill became law.

The White House scrambled earlier this week to win over Republicans skeptical of Graham-Cassidy, with Trump himself phoning lawmakers and state governors seeking to tilt the scales in favor of the bill.

And Trump made his position on Republican defectors clear on Friday, writing on Twitter that those who vote against Graham-Cassidy “will forever… be known as ‘the Republican who saved Obamacare.'”

While Republicans have pledged to repeal the Obama-era health care reforms, they have struggled to secure enough support to do so amid fears that proposed alternatives would dramatically increase the number of Americans without health insurance.

The American Medical Association has issued scathing criticism of the latest repeal effort, warning it “would result in millions of Americans losing their health insurance coverage, destabilize health insurance markets, and decrease access to affordable coverage and care.”

McCain’s rejection of the latest Obamacare replacement bill is yet another slight against the current president, someone he has repeatedly challenged from within the ranks of the Republican Party.

Trump, for his part, had mocked McCain’s war hero status as a former prisoner of war in Vietnam as he ran for president, declaring: “I like people who weren’t captured.”

AFP

McCain Sinks Republican Effort To Repeal Obamacare

John McCain
Senator John McCain

United States Senator John McCain Friday announced his opposition to the latest Republican attempt to replace Barack Obama’s signature health care law, likely dooming the repeal effort.

“I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal,” McCain said of the bill proposed by fellow Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy.

“I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried,” the senator said in a statement.

In July, McCain made a dramatic return to Washington from Arizona after a brain cancer diagnosis to become one of three Republican senators who helped sink their party’s earlier efforts to replace Obamacare.

Republicans have pledged to repeal Obama’s health care reforms, but have struggled to secure enough support to do so amid fears that proposed alternatives would dramatically increase the number of Americans without health insurance.

AFP

U.S. Health Secretary Says His Job Is To Follow Obamacare Law

Tom Price

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary, Tom Price, said that it was his department’s job to follow the law on the Affordable Care Act, former President Obama’s signature domestic initiative known as Obamacare.

Price, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” was asked whether he would implement the Affordable Care Act as it was intended, he said: “Our job is to follow the law of the land, and we take that mission very, very seriously, and the role of the Health and Human Services Department is to improve the health, the safety and the well-being of the American people.

“And what we understand, what the American people understand is that their health and well-being is being harmed right now by the current law.”

He, however, said the administration’s goal was to repeal and replace Obamacare and “put in place a system that actually works for patients.”

Read Also: Republican Obamacare Repeal Bill Fails In U.S. Senate

Republican Obamacare Repeal Bill Fails In U.S. Senate

In a stinging blow to President Donald Trump, U.S. Senate Republicans failed on Friday (July 28) to dismantle Obamacare, falling short on a major campaign promise and perhaps ending a seven-year quest by their party to gut the health care law.

Voting in the early hours, three Republican senators, John McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, crossed party lines to join Democrats in a dramatic 49-to-51 vote to reject a “skinny repeal” bill that would have killed some parts of Obamacare.

The setback leaves Trump without a major legislative win after more than six months in power, despite Republicans controlling the White House, Senate and House. It will also be a let-down for financial markets, which expected Trump to make rapid changes to health care, taxes and infrastructure spending.

The Affordable Care Act, approved by Democrats in 2010, is former Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement. It provided health insurance to millions of previously uninsured Americans.

Senate Republican Plan To Repeal, Replace Obamacare Fails

In a first vote of the many likely to come this week, the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare that Senate Republicans have been working on for months failed to get the 60 votes needed for approval on Tuesday night. The vote was 43 in favor and 57 against.

Nine Republicans, ranging from moderates such as Susan Collins of Maine to conservatives such as Rand Paul of Kentucky, voted against the bill, which would have made deep cuts to Medicaid, the health insurance programme for the poor, and reduced Obamacare subsidies to lower-income people to help them defray the cost of health insurance.

Read Also: Effort To Repeal Obamacare Clears First U.S. Senate Hurdle

Earlier U.S. Senate Republicans narrowly agreed to open debate on the bill to end Obamacare, but the party’s seven-year effort to roll back Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature Healthcare law still faces significant hurdles.

Republicans have found it difficult to fulfill their campaign promises to repeal Obamacare, which enabled 20 million more Americans to get health insurance. Polls show Obamacare is now far more popular than the Republican alternatives.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated the Senate’s replacement bill could lead to as many as 22 million fewer Americans being insured.

 

Effort To Repeal Obamacare Clears First U.S. Senate Hurdle

Gun Control, US Congress

The United States Senate on Tuesday voted to begin formal debate on the healthcare legislation that would repeal major elements of Obamacare and possibly replace it with a less costly programme.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican-Kentucky) urged his colleagues to support the repeal of Obamacare.

“I hope colleagues will consider Obamacare’s history of failures, the unaffordable costs, the scarce choices, the burden on middle-class families, as they cast their votes this afternoon. I would urge them to remember the families who are hurting under this collapsing law,” McConnell said.

The Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer (Democrat-New York), however, warned that the implications of a repeal is grave.

“My colleagues, plain and simple, it’s a ruse. The likeliest result of a conference between the House and Senate is full repeal of the Affordable Care Act or something very close to it,” he said.

“It will certainly mean drastic cuts in Medicaid, huge tax cuts for the wealthy, no help for those with pre-existing conditions and tens of millions losing healthcare, particularly in poorer and more rural states.”

By a vote of 51-50, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a tie, the Republican effort cleared an important procedural hurdle in the Senate.

“As a reminder to our guests, expressions of approval or disapproval are not permitted. On this vote, the yays are 50 and the nays are 50. The Senate, being equally divided, the vice-president votes in the affirmative and the motion is agreed to,” Pence said, breaking the tie.

It is, however, still unclear whether there would eventually be enough votes to pass a bill.