Supreme Court declines to hear case challenging legality of ACA

Supreme Court
The Supreme Court declined to speed up a review of a lawsuit challenging the legality of the Affordable Care Act. (Getty/BrianPIrwin)

The Supreme Court will wait for a federal appeals court to decide on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, meaning that a final decision on the law won’t come before the 2020 election.

The court declined on Tuesday to hear a lawsuit from 17 red states that seeks to dismantle the controversial healthcare law. A group of 20 blue states and the District of Columbia who are fighting the lawsuit had asked the Supreme Court to intervene in the case and circumvent a likely lengthy review by an appellate court.

The blue states had wanted the Supreme Court to intervene to end uncertainty in the healthcare industry because of the lawsuit. 

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America's Health Insurance Plans, the leading insurance industry lobbying group, wrote an amicus brief supporting the blue states' efforts. 

The group said that the Supreme Court should hear the lawsuit to remove the "overhanging legal uncertainty" surrounding ACA coverage.

RELATED: AHIP joins blue states in asking Supreme Court to review ACA case

But red states and the Department of Justice, which is supporting the lawsuit, said that it was too early for the court to weigh in.

The Supreme Court did not give a reason for not taking up the case. A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decided in December that the ACA’s individual mandate was unconstitutional. However, the court declined to decide on whether the rest of the law should go down with the mandate, which the red states’ lawsuit is requesting.

It punted back to Federal Judge Reed O’Connor, who originally ruled the ACA was unconstitutional. The appellate panel wants the judge to decide if the mandate could be severed.

O’Connor has yet to make a ruling on the mandate.

Opponents of the lawsuit were dismayed by the court's decision, saying it will throw more uncertainty into insurance markets. 

"Plans will postpone investment and innovation in the individual market, dampening competition," said Margaret A. Murray, CEO of the Association for Affiliated Community Plans, which represent government health plan issuers.

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