SHOTS – A decision in the latest court case to threaten the future of the Affordable Care Act could come as soon as this month.
The ruling will come from the panel of judges in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard oral arguments in the Texas v. Azar lawsuit.
An estimated 24 million people get their health coverage through programs created under the law, which has faced countless court challenges since it passed.
In court in July, only two of the three judges — both appointed by Republican presidents — asked questions.
Says Nicholas Bagley, a professor of law at the University of Michigan:
“Oral argument in front of the circuit went about as badly for the defenders of the Affordable Care Act as it could have gone,” “To the extent that oral argument offers an insight into how judges are thinking about the case, I think we should be prepared for the worst — the invalidation of all or a significant part of the Affordable Care Act.”
Important caveat: Regardless of this ruling, the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land.
Whatever the 5th Circuit rules, it will be a long time before anything actually changes. Still, the timing of the ruling matters, says Sabrina Corlette, director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University.
“If that decision comes out before or during open enrollment, it could lead to a lot of consumer confusion about the security of their coverage and may actually discourage people from enrolling, which I think would be a bad thing,” she says.
Don’t be confused. Open enrollment begins Nov. 1 and runs at least through Dec. 15, and the insurance marketplaces set up by the law aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
That’s not to underplay the stakes here. Down the line, sometime next year, if the Supreme Court ends up taking the case and ruling the ACA unconstitutional, “the chaos that would ensue is almost possible impossible to wrap your brain around,” Corlette says. Read more.