Through much of a tumultuous 2020, as the pandemic raged in fits and starts, our GOP-controlled government continued to pursue “trashing” the ACA and ignored proposed legislation at both the state and federal levels that would help people afford healthcare insurance and the care they need.

On Nov. 10, only days after Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death and the GOP rushed through Trump’s third appointment to the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, the first Supreme Court hearing on the multi-Red-state case against the ACA took place. At this hearing, the “liberal” wing (Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan) was joined by Kavanaugh and Chief Justice Roberts in agreeing that to kill the entire healthcare act because of one easily severable law, the “Individual Mandate,” did not make sense. Once thought to have been a key to getting people to sign up, the modest annual penalty for not having ACA-compliant health insurance had not made much of a difference in ACA enrollments. In fact, Republicans had cut the penalty to zero, which basically did away with it. So, if Congress were to sever the pesky individual mandate, the ACA could prevail, continuing to insure more than 23 million people. Conservative Justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch still wanted to strike down the entire healthcare act. Justice Barrett was “harder to read,” but even if she ended up agreeing to take down the ACA, the vote would be 5 Justices for the ACA and 3 or 4 against it. Hearings will continue beginning in June or July, but the prospects for a favorable outcome for the ACA look good.

Jeanne Duffy, Ph.D., has served as a college professor, an analyst and project manager for several large companies, and a college administrator in charge of foundation and government support. She is Chair of Gettysburg Democracy for America’s healthcare taskforce.

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