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Supreme Court will decide the fate of Obama health care

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide a lawsuit that threatens the Obama-era health care law, a case that will keep health care squarely in front of voters even though a decision won’t come until after the 2020 election.

The court said it would hear an appeal by 20 mainly Democratic states of a lower-court ruling that declared part of the statute unconstitutional and cast a cloud over the rest.

For the more than 20 million people covered under “Obamacare,” nothing changes while the Supreme Court deliberates. The law’s subsidized private insurance coverage and Medicaid expansion remain in place while the issues are litigated again.

Defenders of the Affordable Care Act argued that the questions raised by the case are too important to let it drag on for months or years in lower courts and that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans erred when it struck down the health law’s now toothless requirement that Americans have health insurance.

The case will be the third major Supreme Court battle over the law since President Barack Obama signed it nearly 10 years ago, on March 23, 2010. The court has twice upheld the heart of the law, with Chief Justice John Roberts memorably siding with the court’s liberals in 2012, amid Obama’s reelection campaign. The majority that upheld the law twice remains on the court, Roberts and the four liberal justices.

The Trump administration’s views on the law have shifted over time, but it has always supported getting rid of provisions that prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against people with existing health ailments. Even as the administration seeks to overturn “Obamacare” in court, President Donald Trump has claimed people with preexisting conditions would still be protected. Neither the White House nor congressional Republicans have specified how.

Congressional repeal narrowly failed in 2017, when the Republicans controlled the House and the Senate. Any repeal effort now would be blocked by the Democratic-led House under Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The Supreme Court’s review of the case guarantees that the fate of the health care law will be in the public’s eye as the election approaches, even if the decision doesn’t come until 2021.

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