The Supreme Court on Wednesday listed a closely watched case seeking to strike down the Affordable Care Act for discussion at the justices’ private conference on Feb. 21.
The justices will consider whether to take up the case and on what schedule.
There is at least some possibility they could decide to take the case this term, meaning a ruling would be issued by June. But most observers expect a ruling will not come until after the 2020 election, either because the court waits until the next term to hear it, or because it decides not to take up the case at all until lower courts have finished considering it.
Whether the high court takes up the case and on what schedule is a key question for the 2020 campaign as well, given that Democrats have seized on the lawsuit to attack Republicans for seeking to overturn the health care law, and particularly its protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
The GOP-led states and the Trump administration, both seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act, have argued that there is no need for the Supreme Court to take up the case now, and that the justices should wait for the process in lower courts to play out.
The Democratic-led states defending the health care law, though, have urged the Supreme Court to take the case, arguing the justices should end the uncertainty hanging over the health care system by quickly affirming the law.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in December that the law’s mandate to have health insurance coverage is unconstitutional, but punted the key question of how much of the rest of the law to strike down back to a lower court. That process could take months if the Supreme Court does not step in sooner.
The GOP challengers argue the whole law should be struck down because it is so intertwined with the mandate, but legal experts in both parties are highly skeptical of that argument, saying that Congress clearly intended the remainder of the law to remain in place when it repealed only the mandate in 2017.