Protesters gather outside Supreme Court ahead of ObamaCare case

Protesters gather outside Supreme Court ahead of ObamaCare case
© Greg Nash

Protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court Tuesday as the justices were scheduled to hear arguments in the latest GOP challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

The high court was set to hear 80 minutes of arguments by teleconference in an effort to preserve ObamaCare by a coalition of Democratic-governed states, such as California and New York, and the Democratic-led House. 

With the court's new 6-3 conservative majority following the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettNeil Gorsuch's terrifying paragraph What's that you smell in the Supreme Court? Overnight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Supreme Court weighs abortion restrictions MORE last month, some court watchers say a decision, expected to be handed down in June, could potentially result in the removal of the 2010 law altogether. 

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A group of demonstrators gathered outside the Supreme Court Tuesday to vocalize their opposition to repealing the ACA. In between performances from dance groups and musicians, several speakers discussed their beliefs on the importance of the protections provided in the Obama-era legislation. 

“Health care is a right, not a privilege,” one speaker said, a sentiment that was repeated throughout the morning by several demonstrators, many of whom were young people. 

One protester held a sign reading, “my friend had cancer: ACA saved his life.” 

Doctors’ groups and health care experts say an end to ObamaCare could be extremely detrimental amid the coronavirus pandemic, causing some 21 million Americans to lose health insurance coverage. It would also remove protections for 133 million people with pre-existing conditions. 

“Invalidating provisions that have expanded access to health insurance coverage ... would have a devastating impact on doctors, patients, and the American health care system in normal times,” reads an amicus brief from the American Medical Association. “However, striking down the ACA at a time when the system is struggling to respond to a pandemic would be a self-inflicted wound that could take decades to heal."

Ahead of Tuesday’s oral arguments, House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerSenate leaders face pushback on tying debt fight to defense bill Overnight Defense & National Security — US tries to deter Russian invasion of Ukraine Senate eyes plan B amid defense bill standoff MORE (D-Md.) saidit is unconscionable that Republicans would put so much energy into trying to take health care access away from millions of Americans in the middle of a deadly pandemic."

"As the oral arguments in this case commence, Americans will be watching and praying that the Court recognizes how critical this law has been for saving and improving lives and making health care affordable and attainable for millions of our people,” Hoyer added. 

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The legal challenge comes as the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers have repeatedly said that they would replace the ACA with a superior health care plan that offered the same protections for those with preexisting conditions. Republicans have yet to pass an alternative version in Congress. 

The Supreme Court previously struck down Republican legal challenges to the ACA in 2012 and 2015. 

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The challengers in Tuesday's lawsuit include a group of more than a dozen Republican-led states, which argue that Trump’s 2017 tax-cut law effectively rendered a key provision of ObamaCare unconstitutional and therefore the entire law should be struck down.

During Barrett’s October confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, she seemingly implied that the ACA could survive a court challenge from the Trump administration. 

While Barrett did not say how she would rule in Tuesday’s case, she noted in October that judges generally try to save the laws being brought forth to the high court when possible. 

"The presumption is always in favor of severability," Barrett said at the time.