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Washington elected officials, hospital association praise Supreme Court ACA decision

UPDATED: Thu., June 17, 2021

In this June 8, 2021 photo, the Supreme Court is seen in Washington.  (J. Scott Applewhite)
In this June 8, 2021 photo, the Supreme Court is seen in Washington. (J. Scott Applewhite)

State elected officials and associations applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act on Thursday.

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the 5th Circuit’s decision in California v. Texas, ruling that the plaintiffs had no standing after they tried to argue that the part of the ACA that required Americans to have health insurance or pay a fine if they did not was unconstitutional.

In 2017, the Republican-driven Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made the penalty for not purchasing insurance zero under the ACA, effectively nullifying the mandate, the Supreme Court ruled in a 7-2 decision on Thursday.

Thus, plaintiffs, which included two individuals and a number of states besides Texas, could not claim an injury and had no standing to bring their legal challenge.

“We conclude that the plaintiffs in this suit failed to show a concrete, particularized injury fairly traceable to the defendants’ conduct in enforcing the specific statutory provision they attack as unconstitutional,” the majority opinion says. “They have failed to show that they have standing to attack as unconstitutional the Act’s minimum essential coverage provision.”

Gov. Jay Inslee praised the court’s decision as “really good news” on Thursday. Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler echoed the governor’s sentiments.

“People will have peace of mind that tomorrow they might not see their health insurance go away,” Kreidler told reporters on Thursday.

The Affordable Care Act extended health insurance coverage to millions of Americans, as well as allowed some states to expand their Medicaid programs, offering free health care to those who need it the most.

The Washington State Hospital Association celebrated the court ruling, and the association was one of 33 nationwide that filed an amicus brief encouraging the court to uphold the ACA.

“We hope this decision puts to rest challenges against the Affordable Care Act,” said Cassie Sauer, WSHA chief executive, in a statement. “Hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians have benefited from this law, ensuring access to timely, high-quality health care. It’s an excellent law, and we are delighted it will stay in place.”

The ACA fundamentally changed the American health care system and extended health care coverage to many more Americans. The associations supported these reforms in their amicus briefs.

“These provisions have transformed the way care is delivered, resulted in fewer hospital closures, and provided greater economic confidence to lenders and boards of trustees who have taken on new projects,” the January 2020 amicus brief filed by more than 30 hospital associations nationwide said.

“The expanded ACA insured population has also contributed to closing the uninsured gap, which has improved health systems’ financial viability and allowed underserved populations to receive preventive and other services in more appropriate care settings.”

The ruling is the third time the ACA has been upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court.

The case had potentially wide-reaching consequences if the Supreme Court had decided that one voided clause could invalidate or make the entire ACA unconstitutional.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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