For proponents of the Affordable Care Act, the last couple of months have been quite encouraging, at least as far as the substance of health care is concerned. Totals from the recent open-enrollment period, for example, were solid and in line with expectations, while the latest industry data pointed to stable health care markets, Republican sabotage efforts notwithstanding.
It was against this backdrop that Utah's Medicaid expansion program got underway on Jan. 1, while policymakers in Kansas reached a bipartisan compromise to bring Medicaid expansion to the Sunflower State. Others may soon follow: Phil Cox, a former head of the Republican Governors Association and a well-known figure in D.C. circles, was quoted saying two weeks ago, "The battle has been fought and lost on Medicaid expansion."
There is, however, just one dark cloud hanging over the ACA's head. A Republican lawsuit, backed by the Trump administration, is trying to destroy "Obamacare" in its entirety, and a Texas judge has already ruled in the GOP's favor. The 5th Circuit, in a move that appeared awfully political, recently left the future of the nation's health care system in limbo, almost certainly until after the election.
The legal process may, however, move more quickly. The ACA's proponents asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case, and a week ago today, the justices directed the Trump administration and Republican state officials behind the lawsuit to respond. As NBC News' Pete Williams explained, "Such a highly abbreviated timeline – the rules normally allow a month for filing a response – gives the court the option to take up the case during its current term, which would mean a ruling on a contentious issue this spring, just as the presidential campaign heats up."
On Friday, the administration filed a brief, effectively telling the high court to cool its heels. The Washington Post reported:
The Trump administration and a coalition of conservative states that have been challenging the Affordable Care Act said Friday that there is no reason for the Supreme Court to rush a ruling on the issue this term. [...]
President Trump's solicitor general, Noel Francisco, replied that the [5th Circuit's] decision simply preserved the status quo until a lower court looked more closely at which parts of the law should survive. It would be premature to intervene now, he said.
The full filing is online here (pdf).