The Supreme Court has reversed and remanded California v. Texas, holding that the Plaintiffs do not have standing to challenge the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) minimum essential coverage provision.
In 2010, ACA, under the newly added Code Sec. 5000A, required most Americans to obtain minimum essential health insurance coverage, or pay a penalty. In 2017, under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Congress effectively nullified the penalty by setting its amount at $0. The IRS issued guidance that the statute no longer required taxpayers to report whether they did or did not maintain coverage.
In 2018, Texas and 17 other states brought a lawsuit against the United States and federal officials. They were later joined by two individuals (Neill Hurley and John Nantz). The United States took the side of the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs claimed that without the penalty, the minimum essential coverage requirement was unconstitutional and that the minimum essential coverage requirement was not severable from the rest of ACA. Hence, they believed ACA as a whole was invalid. California, along with fifteen other states and the District of Columbia, intervened to defend ACA.
The District Court found that the individual plaintiffs had standing to challenge the constitutionality of the minimum essential coverage provision, Code Sec. 5000A(a). The court further held that the minimum essential coverage provision was unconstitutional and not severable from the rest of ACA. It granted relief in the form of a declaration stating just that. On appeal, a panel majority agreed with the District Court that the plaintiffs had standing and that the minimum essential coverage provision was unconstitutional. It found that the District Court’s severability analysis, however, was “incomplete,” and it remanded the case for further analysis.
The Supreme Court did not analyze whether the provision or ACA is unconstitutional, because it held that Texas and the other plaintiffs in the suit lack standing to bring the case. The plaintiffs do not have standing because they were not able to show a past or future injury, pocketbook or otherwise, fairly traceable to the government enforcing the minimum essential coverage requirement. The Court vacated the lower court’s judgment and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss.