The US Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a Republican bid that had been backed by former President Donald Trump's administration to invalidate the Obamacare healthcare law, ruling that Texas and other challengers had no legal standing to file their lawsuit.
The 7-2 ruling authored by liberal Justice Stephen Breyer did not decide broader legal questions raised in the case about whether a key provision in the law, which is formally called the Affordable Care Act, was unconstitutional and, if so, whether the rest of the statute should be struck down.
The provision, called the "individual mandate," required Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a financial penalty.
It marked the third time the court has preserved Obamacare since its 2010 enactment.
President Joe Biden's administration in February urged the Supreme Court to uphold Obamacare, reversing the position taken by the government under Trump, who left office in January.
The ruling came in a lawsuit by Texas and 17 other Republican-governed states and later joined by Trump's administration. A coalition of 20 states including Democratic-governed California and New York and the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives intervened in the case to try to preserve Obamacare after Trump refused to defend the law.
The two dissenting justices were conservatives Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch.
Republicans fiercely opposed Obamacare when it was proposed, failed to repeal it when they controlled both chambers of Congress and have been unsuccessful in getting courts to invalidate the law, which was Democratic former President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy achievement. The Trump administration did take steps to hobble the law.
The Supreme Court has a 6-3 conservative majority bolstered by the October confirmation in a Republican-led Senate of Trump's third appointee, Amy Coney Barrett, but the Republican Obamacare challengers still came away disappointed. The Supreme Court in 2012 and 2015 also fended off previous Republican challenges to Obamacare.
Biden has pledged to expand healthcare access and buttress Obamacare. Biden and other Democrats had criticized Republican efforts to strike down the law at a time when the United States was grappling with a deadly coronavirus pandemic.
If Obamacare had been struck down, up to 20 million Americans stood to lose their medical insurance and insurers could have once again refused to cover people with pre-existing medical conditions. Obamacare expanded the Medicaid state-federal healthcare program and created marketplaces for private insurance.
In 2017, Trump signed a Republican-backed tax law that eliminated the financial penalty under the individual mandate, which gave rise to the Republican lawsuit. The tax law meant the individual mandate could no longer be interpreted as a tax provision and was therefore unlawful, the Republican challengers argued.
The Supreme previously upheld Obamacare by deeming the financial penalty under the individual mandate a tax permissible under the Constitution's language empowering Congress to levy taxes.