Today, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge by 18 states to the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in California v. Texas
. In the 7-2 ruling, the Court held that the plaintiff states do not have legal standing to challenge the minimum essential coverage provision of the ACA as unconstitutional because they have not shown a past or future injury traceable to that provision. Justices Alito and Gorsuch were the two dissenting justices.
Because the plaintiffs lacked standing, the majority ruling authored by Justice Breyer did not address the substantive questions whether the ACA’s minimum essential coverage provision is unconstitutional and, if so, whether the provision is so integral to the ACA that the rest of the ACA is unconstitutional.
The plaintiff states had argued that when Congress reduced the individual mandate penalty to $0 in 2017, the individual mandate could no longer be construed as a tax, and thus made the mandate unconstitutional based on the 2012 Supreme Court decision originally upholding the constitutionality of the ACA.
More information should be available in the coming days regarding whether the substantive arguments will be resurrected by other plaintiffs that may have standing and potential timelines for such challenges.
The Supreme Court decision comes in the middle of a special open enrollment period for signing up for insurance coverage through the exchange marketplace, and when a new federal law—the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)—has enhanced the tax credits available for purchasing exchange coverage.
Typically, open enrollment occurs in November and December of the year prior to the benefit year beginning in January, and a person could only sign up outside of that window if he or she qualified due to a life event, such as losing health coverage or moving. For 2021, a special open enrollment period for anyone wishing to sign up for coverage through the exchange marketplace has been available since Feb. 15 and will continue through Aug. 15.
This week, the Biden administration released the latest figures indicating that 20,701 people in Wisconsin signed up for coverage during this year’s special open enrollment through May 31. Of those consumers, 25% have been able to obtain a health insurance plan for $10 or less per month due to the ARPA enhanced tax credit subsidies which became effective on April 1.
Based on the most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau, Wisconsin currently has the eighth-lowest uninsured rate in the country at 5.7%. The uninsured rate in Wisconsin has decreased by about 40% since 2010, the year the Affordable Care Act was enacted.