Our Roundtable Discussion initiative was created in the Spring of 2019 to provide a new dimension to the legal research and discourse that the Columbia Undergraduate Law Review aims to promote. For each roundtable discussion, CULR staff writers are asked to respond to a prompt or issue from their own perspective in no more than 750 words. With various voices engaged in the discussion of a single legal issue, Roundtable highlights the multi-faceted nature of law in a digestible and accessible way.
Healthcare has long been a contentious issue in American law. Questions concerning jurisdiction, who bears the burden of insurance, and issues within it ought to be handled (if at all) have plagued the American public consciousness for decades.
Everything changed, however, with the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA was a carefully negotiated, bipartisan solution to deficiencies in the then current system which revolutionized health care as we know it. Changes to the status quo, however, inevitably lead to resistance, and numerous legal challenges were brought against the ACA, most famously National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius. The legal battle continues even today, with Texas v. United States and numerous actions performed by the Trump Administration.
In this Roundtable Discussion, we will examine the legal history of the Affordable Care Act, then contemporary legal challenges to its passage, and its potential future in the face of continued Republican backlash.
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Jake Gray, Staff Writer
In 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as ObamaCare, was signed into law by President Barack Obama. The landmark healthcare legislation made it illegal to deny people coverage because of pre-existing conditions, allowed people to stay on their parents’ plans until they were twenty-six, provided free preventive services, and expanded coverage to tens of millions of Americans by subsidizing health insurance costs, among other things.
Tiffany Jing, Staff Writer
After decades of controversy regarding the government’s role in ensuring health care for its people, the Supreme Court set a precedent that forever changed the accessibility of health insurance on June 28, 2012. In National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (2012), the Court upheld most provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which aimed to increase the number of people with health care, decrease medical expenses, and expand Medicaid.
Abhishek Hariharan, Staff Writer
After President Trump entered office, the ACA’s future looked dim, as the new administration sought to repeal Obamacare. While the vote for the “skinny repeal” of Obamacare failed in 2017,  congressional Republicans were able to remove certain key aspects of the original legislation. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA), the ACA’s individual mandate was essentially made null beginning in 2019 . The TCJA lowered the penalty of the individual mandate to $0, gutting a significant portion of the ACA .
Sonia Mahajan, Staff Writer
A challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is expected to make its way to the Supreme Court sometime in the next few years—a short amount of time in a judicial context.  After Judge Reed O’Connor’s 2018 decision in Texas v. Azar, which struck down the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in a Northern Texas court, the issue has become even more pressing.  Advocates for the ACA, who triumphed at the Supreme Court in 2011 and 2015, plan to challenge the ruling , and their future case is likely to make its way to the Supreme Court due to a conflict of jurisdiction: clearly, the ACA cannot be unconstitutional in Northern Texas and constitutional everywhere else.