Though ‘unsurprising,’ U.S. Supreme Court decision on Affordable Care Act a relief for many

The United States Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, should not come as a total surprise despite the conservative efforts to invalidate the law, according to West Virginia University policy and legal experts.

Christopher Plein, of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, is a health policy expert, and Valarie Blake, of the College of Law, has studied the ACA and intersections between health care delivery and ethics.

Quotes and Comments

“The Supreme Court’s decision should be somewhat unsurprising to those who study the Affordable Care Act, but likely of great relief to many who have come to rely on provisions of the ACA to provide and protect health insurance coverage. Those who are sighing relief include not only individuals and families, but many healthcare providers and state governments that have come to rely on various provisions of the ACA. 

“The ACA is distinct in how it continues to be a topic of partisan debate years after its passage and implementation. Arguably, opposition is more symbolic than substantive.  This is not surprising in our hyper-partisan political era. It has been a regular topic of debate in campaigns and elections since its passage in 2010. The law has been regularly challenged in both the legislative and judicial arenas. While in office, President Trump vowed to repeal the Act. Some may be surprised that in this seven-to-two Supreme Court decision, that two of President Trump’s appointees sided with the majority. 

“It is crucial to understand that the ACA has reshaped the healthcare landscape in the United States. Most significant for West Virginia, and many other states, are provisions that allowed for the expansion of Medicaid to provide access to coverage for many lower-income individuals. This indeed has been a game changer. It is highly probable that states and their residents have been better able to weather the COVID-19 pandemic because of expanded eligibility and coverage. Nonetheless, we should not expect the most recent Supreme Court decision to mark the end of the debate. The politics of ACA will no doubt continue.” – Christopher Plein, Professor of Public Administration, Eberly Family Professor for Outstanding Public Service

“Far from a cop out, the Supreme Court’s decision today not to reach the merits of plaintiff’s case and instead to settle the matter on standing alone is the right decision. The plaintiffs were in a catch 22—the lack of enforcement of the individual mandate is what allowed them to again challenge the law’s constitutionality—and also what ultimately sunk their case because it ultimately meant they suffered no harm.

“Although the majority never reaches the merits of the case, it was always hard to believe that the whole of the ACA was under threat. A majority of Justices were unlikely to find that the sum total of the ACA was inseverable from one single provision, no matters its importance.” – Valarie Blake, Professor of Law, WVU College of Law