Biden administration asks Supreme Court to uphold Affordable Care Act

Evening light on the Supreme Court building.
The Supreme Court is seen as the sun sets in Washington in November.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

The Biden administration has told the Supreme Court that it believes the entire Affordable Care Act should be upheld, reversing a Trump administration position in a key case pending before the justices.

The Justice Department filed a letter Wednesday “to notify the Court that the United States no longer adheres to the conclusions in the previously filed brief.” The healthcare case was argued a week after the election in November.

It’s at least the third case in which the new administration has switched positions at the Supreme Court. The other two are cases over President Trump’s push to build portions of the U.S.-Mexico border wall and a Trump policy forcing people seeking asylum to wait in Mexico for their hearings.


The Trump administration called on the justices to strike down the entire Obama-era law under which some 23 million people get health insurance and millions more with preexisting conditions are protected from discrimination.

The fight is over whether a 2017 change in a provision of the law known as the individual mandate rendered it unconstitutional. Congress eliminated the penalty for not having health insurance.

The Trump administration backed the view of Texas and other Republican-led states that if such an important part of the law in invalid, the entire law should fall with it.

In Wednesday’s letter, the Justice Department says that the now-toothless mandate remains constitutional, but that even if the court decides otherwise, the rest of the law should be left alone.

That outcome, rather than taking down the whole law, seemed a likely one based on the justices’ questions and comments in November.

Biden has called for strengthening the law, and he already has reopened signups for people who might have lost their jobs and the health insurance that goes with them because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was vice president when the law was enacted in 2010.