Supreme Court Denies Petition to Expedite ACA Case

Despite defendants’ efforts to persuade the US Supreme Court to expedite its consideration of the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the ACA, the Court denied their request.

On December 18, 2019, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the individual mandate was unconstitutional because Congress declined to exercise its Constitutional taxing authority to penalize citizens who did not obtain health insurance. Although the District Court that first heard this case also ruled that the loss of the individual mandate meant that the entire ACA was also unconstitutional, the Fifth Circuit was not convinced. Instead, the appellate court remanded the case back to the District Court to examine that question more closely, provide more detail about what provisions in the ACA would fail, and rule on whether other provisions could stand.

On January 3, 2020, two defendants in the case asked the Supreme Court to hear their appeal of the Fifth Circuit ruling on an expedited basis. The defendants, California and the US House of Representatives, asked that the Court consider their appeal during the current term, which ends in June 2020, without waiting for the lower courts to reconsider these issues first. They argued that these issues, and the ultimate fate of the ACA, are too important to wait and that uncertainty about the outcome needed to be resolved sooner rather than later.

On January 10, 2020, the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit challenging the ACA’s individual mandate and, potentially, the entire ACA, filed a brief with the US Supreme Court urging the Court not to expedite its review of the case. The plaintiffs in the case include the federal Department of Justice, 18 Republican attorneys general and governors, and two individual plaintiffs. They argued that the defendants failed to articulate the harm in waiting, as the lower court rulings are stayed pending the resolution of the appeals. They also argued that there is no need to rush the process, and to give the lower courts more time to consider the issues more carefully. In the alternative, the plaintiffs asked that the Court wait and take up the matter in their next session, which begins in October 2020.

On January 21, 2020, the Court issued an order denying the defendants’ request to expedite consideration of the case. The order did not weigh in on the merits of the parties’ arguments. As a result, the Court will likely not take up this matter until 2021 at the earliest.

This news does not change anything about the ACA or its application to employer plan sponsors. As such, plan sponsors should continue to comply with the ACA’s provisions as they are now.

DOJ Response »
Court Order »