The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied requests to quickly decide the fate of the Affordable Care Act, a move that makes it unlikely the court will take up the health law during its current term.
A group of 20 Democratic-led states and the U.S. House of Representatives had asked the court to fast-track their appeals so that the latest legal battle over the Obama-era law could be resolved by the end of June.
The justices denied those requests in a brief written order, likely leaving any court consideration of the ACA until the fall at the earliest, with any decision likely coming after the 2020 election.
The latest Supreme Court appeals come after a New Orleans-based federal appeals court ruled last month that a central feature of the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional. That part of the law required most individuals to carry health insurance or pay a penalty.
The law continues to remain in effect during the litigation, which stems from a lawsuit brought by Republican-led states and backed by the Trump administration that challenged the law’s insurance mandate. The new round of litigation came after Congress reduced the penalty to $0. The GOP-led states argued the elimination of the tax rendered the mandate unconstitutional.
A lower court is reconsidering what parts of the sprawling health law can remain in place, but the Democratic states and House are seeking to have the Supreme Court rule that the entire law remains valid.
The court’s decision not to fast-track the case takes pressure off President Trump, who has long promised to release a health plan.
If the Supreme Court had fast-tracked the case and invalidated the health law, the issue would have been thrust to center stage in the election, potentially hurting Republicans who don’t want to be seen as taking coverage away. A court decision upholding the law, meanwhile, would be a blow to President Trump and Republicans who have pledged to repeal the ACA.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Democratic presidential candidates including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have all criticized President Trump as a threat to health coverage and the ACA, and a number have cited the administration’s support for the lawsuit as evidence.
About half of Americans now approve of the ACA, according to Gallup, up slightly from 48% in fall of 2018.
The court’s decision leaves uncertainty hanging over health care. Hospital groups have said the lack of clarity on the long-term status of the ACA is complicating decisions on investments, and patient groups have said consumers are concerned they could lose health care coverage if the law is struck down.
“The court’s decision today leaves the fate of tens of millions of people who could lose health coverage protections for pre-existing health conditions, and access to treatment for substance use disorders and mental health, maternal care, and more, up in the air,” said Emily Stewart, executive director of Community Catalyst, a consumer advocacy group.