Supreme Court will decide fate of Obama health care law

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Defenders of the Affordable Care Act argued that the issues raised by the case are too important to let the litigation drag on for months

U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

(AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to decide a lawsuit that threatens the Obama-era health care law, but the decision is not likely until after the 2020 election.

The court said it would hear an appeal by 20 mainly Democratic states of a lower-court ruling that declared part of the statute unconstitutional and cast a cloud over the rest.

Defenders of the Affordable Care Act argued that the issues raised by the case are too important to let the litigation drag on for months or years in lower courts and that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans erred when it struck down the health law’s now toothless requirement that Americans have health insurance.

The case will be the third major Supreme Court battle over the law popularly known as Obamacare since its passage in 2010. The court has twice upheld the heart of the law, with Chief Justice John Roberts memorably siding with the court’s liberals in 2012, amid President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign. The majority that upheld the law twice remains on the court, Roberts and the four liberal justices.

The Trump administration supports the total repeal of the law, including its provisions that prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against people with existing health ailments. The entire health care law is in effect pending the ongoing court case.

The Democratic states had asked for a fast-track review with a decision by late June, before the 2020 elections in November. Instead, the justices probably will hear arguments in the fall, with a decision likely in the spring of 2021.

The high court action takes the case out of the hands of a federal district judge in Texas who had previously struck down the entire law.

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