Is Obamacare still in effect

Supreme Court: Hope for "Obamacare"

Exactly a week after the presidential election, the US Supreme Court has dealt with one of the most contentious issues in American domestic politics. It's about the 2010 health care reform that brought President Barack Obama's administration to health insurance for more than 20 million US citizens.

For years the Republicans, and above all Donald Trump, have been trying to overturn the reform known as "Obamacare". And with the appointment of three new constitutional judges in his tenure, it seemed like the chances were good for the incumbent president.

The demolition of an important pillar ...

At the hearing on Tuesday, it should be clarified whether the health care reform is completely invalid because a key element has de facto been reversed. Specifically, it was about the insurance obligation known as "individual mandate": the reform had obliged most US citizens to take out health insurance under the threat of a fine. This element was particularly controversial - and was at the center of an initial Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare in 2012.

At the time, the court ruled with a narrow majority that the health reform was constitutional because the fine could be understood as a tax. The Congress, which is allowed to levy taxes, has not exceeded its powers because of this.

... should overturn the entire reform

In 2017, Trump's Republicans canceled the fine that threatened if insurance was not taken out. Several republican-ruled states subsequently argued that once the penalty payment expired, compulsory insurance would be unconstitutional - and the entire reform would become obsolete.

In late 2018, a Conservative federal judge in the state of Texas endorsed this view. Compulsory insurance was such an important "pillar" of the reform that Obamacare could no longer exist without it.

"Not the job of the court"

However, two important conservative judges are convinced that "Obamacare" will hold up in its current form. It is "pretty clear" that you can look at the clause separately and leave the rest of the law in force, said Trump-appointed conservative constitutional judge Brett Kavanaugh in the roughly two-hour hearing.

US Supreme Court Justice John Roberts also made it clear that in 2017, Congress merely lowered the fine to zero and not even tried to remove the rest of Obamacare. That is now not the "job" of the court.

The votes of Roberts and Kavanaugh, along with those of the three Liberal judges, would form a majority in the court. A ruling from the Supreme Court is not expected until next year.

rb / AR (afp, ap, dpa, rtr)