This is A Constitutional Case That Affects Us All Part 2, of my two part piece article series on The Affordable Care Act, and it’s Individual Mandate statute. If you haven’t read Part 1. I would encourage you to go back and read it, it will provide some valuable context to California v. Texas, and what will be discussed here in this article. For a short recap, NFIB v. Sebelius2 upheld the Constitutionality of the Individual Mandate statute of The Affordable Care Act. The Chief Justice argued that the penalty to the Individual Mandate is not a tax when applied to The Anti-Injunction Act, but is a tax when defined by the Constitution. The Court upheld the Individual Mandate in a 5-4 decision June 28th 2012.  In Part 2, we will explore the history of the recent Supreme Court Decision California v. Texas, the political conflict preceding it, and the ruling of the Court. 

First, the history, and background of California v. Texas. During the 2016 Presidential campaigns, Donald Trump’s campaign platform was very open and bold about their stance on healthcare as well as the decision of the court in NFIB v. Sebelius. When elected, President Trump, and a republican congress, zeroed out the Individual Mandate penalty. This means that the entire ACA is still in effect, but no one would be forced to pay a tax during tax returns for not having healthcare. With the penalty now at $0 individuals could refuse to purchase healthcare and not be penalized by the government. Texas and other states that opposed the ACA filed a lawsuit challenging the Individual Mandate on the grounds that if the tax is $0 then it’s no longer a tax and therefore since the statute cannot be severed, the entire ACA must be declared unconstitutional. It would be important to note here that there were a few individuals involved in both sides of the argument who also filled suit. California along with other states responded as the defendants and the case was brought to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. “The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the district court’s conclusion but remanded the case for reconsideration of whether any part of the ACA survives in the absence of the individual mandate. The Supreme Court granted California’s petition for review, as well as Texas’s cross-petition for review.”3  The name of the case on the district level was Texas v. Azar(June 2018), and the case was decided by Judge Reed O’Conner who in his opinion wrote “Individual Mandate can no longer be fairly read as an exercise of Congress’s Tax Power and is still impermissible under the Interstate Commerce Clause—meaning the Individual Mandate is unconstitutional.” Essentially because the penalty was at $0, it’s not possible for it to be read as a tax, so it’s unconstitutional. Along with that, the Judge also said  because he found the Individual Mandate was not severable, the entire ACA is unconstitutional. However, he held off from turning down the law, since it would be appealed. This is when California joins the fight, and we get California v. Texas, and Texas v. California, on the Fifth Circuit, which the Supreme Court later simplifies to California v. Texas.

The Fifth Circuit ruling upheld Judge O’Conner’s decision that the Individual Mandate was unconstitutional, but phrased some concerns about the Judge’s decision that the entirety of the ACA was unconstitutional. Thus the stage is set for the appeal to the Supreme Court; it would appear to be  a repeat of NFIB v. Sebelius, except for the zeroing out of the Individual Mandate, a political move the Trump administration made that the Court would analyze. With an upcoming election and a new Supreme Court seat to fill, things only get more intense. 

Second, the historic timing of California v. Texas will be remembered for many years to come, because of where it sits on the backdrop of politics. Healthcare has been a big debate between senators, representatives, and presidential candidates for many many years. Both sides of the argument have anxiously awaited the decision of the highest court in the land. Set to be argued November 10th 2020, California v. Texas was a hot and very touchy subject at the Confirmation Hearing of, at the time Judge Amy Coney Barrett, to the Supreme Court. Anyone following the Confirmation Hearing could see a general trend of questions, and comments made by the Democratic Senators revolving around the Affordable Care Act, and California v. Texas. Along with the Confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, the 2020 Presidential Election was also taking place. The Democrats on the Judiciary Committee of the Senate shared numerous stories of people’s lives who have benefited from the ACA, during their individual questioning sessions. It became evident their belief that if nominated Justice Barrett would be a deciding vote in whether or not to strike down the ACA, as well as a vote if a case regarding the upcoming election makes its way to the Supreme Court. Justice Barrett was confirmed October 26th, and the election took place November 3rd. The timing of California v. Texas, it’s importance in both the election of a new President, and confirmation of a new Associate Justice to the United State Supreme Court will make it unforgettable for years to come. 

Third, the Court decided in a 7-2 ruling that “The plaintiffs lack standing to challenge the Affordable Care Act’s minimum essential coverage provision.”4 The majority opinion authored by Justice Stephen Breyer referenced, to name a few of them, DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Cuno5, Allen v. Wright6, Babbitt v. Farm Workers7,  MedImmune, Inc. v. Genentech, Inc.8, Clapper v. Amnesty Int’l USA9, Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife10, and Whitmore v. Arkansas11. It’s crucial to understand the Majority of the Court did not address questions of severability, or constitutionality, because they ruled that the plaintiffs don’t have sufficient grounds to fill suit, they have not been wronged by the law or the penalty affixed to the Individual Mandate. DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Cuno established that for a plaintiff to have standing they must “allege personal injury fairly traceable to the defendant’s allegedly unlawful conduct and likely to be redressed by the requested relief.” Justice Clarence Thomas joined the majority but wrote a concurring opinion because he agreed with Justice Alito’s dissent, but agreed with the decision of the majority that there wasn’t sufficient “unlawful conduct” for the plaintiffs to challenge the law. Like mentioned earlier Justice Alito wrote the dissenting opinion to which he was joined by Justice Gorsuch, that the plaintiffs did have reason to challenge the law, he argued that because the penalty was at $0, it cannot be considered a tax and should therefore be declared unconstitutional. California v. Texas was decided on June 17th 2021. 

California v Texas would become the third Supreme Court Case that could have struck down the Affordable Care Act, but didn’t. The history of the ACA and California v Texas, the timing of the case, and the ruling together make this case both controversial and part of our lives, either directly or indirectly. Three big things we can learn from  learn from our study of these two Supreme Court decisions is that, the laws we are required to obey come from somewhere, and should have a foundation in the Constitution, if they don’t we ought to challenge their constitutionality, the Supreme Court has become a powerful branch of the government (whether that’s a good thing or bad thing will be left up to you), and to have an understand of the function and structure of the government, you can’t only read the Constitution you must also read it’s related Supreme Court Cases. Our legal system and laws are like a puzzle, in order to get the full picture you have to have all the necessary pieces. You’re never too old nor too young to begin the puzzle, the completed picture after will be well worth the effort. 

  1. Jul 2, Veritas Libertatis |, and 2021 | Constitution | 0 |. A Controversial Case That Affects Us All -Part 1 | Children of the Republic. Accessed 26 July 2021.
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  5. “DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Cuno.” Oyez, Accessed 29 Jul. 2021.
  6. “Allen v. Wright.” Oyez, Accessed 29 Jul. 2021.
  7. “Babbitt v. United Farm Workers National Union.” Oyez, Accessed 29 Jul. 2021.
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  13. “King v. Burwell.” Oyez, Accessed 26 Jul. 2021.
  14. “What Is the California v. Texas (Texas v. Azar/U.S.) Lawsuit?”, Accessed 26 July 2021.
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  16. National Conference of State Legislatures. “The Affordable Care Act: A Brief Summary.”, Mar. 2011,
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  19. ‌“No Health Insurance: 2019 Federal Tax Return Info.”, 2019,
  20. ‌Eibner, Christine, and Sarah Nowak. “The Effect of Eliminating the Individual Mandate Penalty and the Role of Behavioral Factors | Commonwealth Fund.”, commonwealthfund, 23 May 2019,
  21. ‌“Signs of Stability in Individual Health Care Market – the White House.”, Accessed 26 July 2021.
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