The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Teens for Teen Health.
With the ascension of Amy Comey Barret to the Supreme Court, the conservatives have gone from a 5-4 majority to a 6-3 majority in the court. While seemingly insignificant, the effect of this small change could be seismic.
An increasingly conservative Supreme Court could have massive impacts on many hot-button issues like abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, and gun control, but the effects it will have on the future of health care will likely be felt soon.
The Supreme Court is set to hear multiple cases on healthcare regarding issues like prescription drug prices, work requirements in order to qualify for Medicaid, and the insanity defense; however, the most important of these cases will be on whether the court will uphold the legality of government-funded healthcare.
For supporters of government-funded healthcare, there are reasons to be optimistic, but there are also reasons to feel pessimistic.
The good news is that Democrats hold the trifecta in the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the presidency for 2020. This would allow Democrats to more easily enact legislation that could save the Affordable Care Act.
Due to the ACA being challenged on the basis of the individual mandate, Congress could eliminate the individual mandate or set the penalty for not having health coverage at a small sum charge. The passage of this legislation would make rulings against the ACA null.
More good news is that although there is a conservative majority in the court, individual conservative justices can still, and often do, side with the more liberal justices. In fact, Chief Justice John Roberts, who was once thought to be one of the court’s most conservative justices, has recently developed a reputation as a “swing justice.”
However, the future of the ACA is anything but secure.
Despite a majority support for the ACA among the Democrats in the Senate, Senate Republicans could still filibuster any legislation that could save the ACA. If the Republicans filibuster, it is very unlikely that the Democrats will be able to muster up the votes to end it.
While Chief Justice Roberts has become more of a “swing justice,” he still sides with the conservative justices frequently. And even if he does, the side in support of the ACA is likely to still be short one justice.
Even if the court sides with the government, that still doesn’t protect the ACA from future lawsuits and cases.