SCOTUS hearing on pivotal ACA repeal case likely to occur after presidential election

Supreme Court
The Supreme Court is unlikely to hear oral arguments before the November presidential election in a pivotal case over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. (Getty/BrianPIrwin)

The oral arguments for a Supreme Court case that will decide the fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are unlikely to be heard before the November presidential election.

The court released its hearing schedule for October on Monday, and the pivotal case Texas v. California—which will decide the constitutionality of the ACA—is not on it. The court could hold a hearing on Nov. 2, the day before the presidential election, but could instead punt the hearing to after the election is held.

A decision on the case, which could have major ramifications for the health insurance industry, is still expected at the end of the court’s next term in June 2021.

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The case centers on whether the healthcare law should be struck down or if it is "severable" from the individual mandate that requires people to buy health insurance. The 2017 tax reform law zeroed out the mandate's penalty, but it remains a part of the law. 

An appeals court ruled in December that the individual mandate was unconstitutional, but it punted on a decision over whether the law can exist without the mandate. A lower federal court ruled that the entire law should be struck down.

The lawsuit against the law was brought by Texas and 16 other red states. The Justice Department officially asked the Supreme Court to strike down the law, and it had previously sided with the red states in the lawsuit.

Experts say that the lawsuit is injecting even more uncertainty into the future of the individual market, which is already murky due to changes with healthcare use sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The 2020 election and the forthcoming Supreme Court ruling on the ACA could also affect whether consumers can choose to remain on exchange coverage or plans choices available to them (such as a public option),” according to an analysis from the consulting firm Avalere on the impact of ACA exchange enrollment.