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Supreme Court to hear Obamacare case a week after Election Day

By scheduling the case after Election Day, the court will prevent the argument from becoming fodder for campaign ads.
Affordable Care Act supporters hold up signs outside the Supreme Court on June 25, 2015.
Affordable Care Act supporters hold up signs outside the Supreme Court on June 25, 2015.Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call via AP file

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument on the future of Obamacare on Nov. 10 — a week after the presidential election — the court announced Wednesday.

The case will determine whether the Affordable Care Act that provides millions of Americans with health insurance can continue to be enforced. By scheduling the case after Election Day, the court will prevent the argument, likely to be conducted by telephone conference call, from becoming fodder for campaign ads.

A group of red states, led by Texas, challenged the law's central provision — the individual mandate, which requires nearly all Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty on their income taxes. The Supreme Court upheld Obamacare in 2012, ruling that it was a legitimate exercise of Congress's taxing authority.

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But in 2017, the Republican-led Congress set the tax penalty at zero. That led the red states to argue that because the tax was effectively eliminated, the revised law is an unconstitutional effort to require all Americans to buy something. A federal judge in Texas agreed, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld that ruling.

A group of blue states, led by California, asked the Supreme Court to overturn those lower court decisions. They said that with the tax penalty at zero, there effectively is no individual mandate, and the rest of the law should be allowed to survive.

The court will issue its decision by mid-July 2021.