On Friday, the Supreme Court announced that opening briefs in the Trump-Republican lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act will be due May 6, one month from today. One month in which tens of thousands more Americans will contract COVID-19 and thousands more will die. Another month in which millions will lose their jobs and their health insurance. While the arguments in the case won’t be heard until fall, the court will be reading the briefs for it this spring.
That means the court is going to start considering the most important case of the year, if not the decade, in the middle of this pandemic. It means the court will have to decide whether to rip insurance away from the 20 million who are covered in the ACA plans and millions more who are on expanded Medicaid. It means they'll be thinking about whether they want to rip away protections from 135 million people with preexisting conditions, one of which may eventually be having had coronavirus.
It will be hearing arguments to persuade it to upend a decade's worth of systematic changes to how health care is delivered in the U.S. All the while knowing that Donald Trump has no back-up plan, which might be fine for the likes of Justices Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh, but might be just a bit too much for Chief Justice John Roberts to stomach.
There's at least a sense of urgency in the fact that they've scheduled the case to start up this spring—on Friday they postponed all the other cases that were going to be argued this term, including another Obamacare case in challenging the administration's policy to allow religious objectors to be exempt from the law. So all of the cases already postponed for March, and those there were to have been heard in April could be put off as long as until next term, in October.
"The Court will consider rescheduling some cases from the March and April sessions before the end of the Term, if circumstances permit in light of public health and safety guidance at that time," the statement from the court announcing the postponements said. "The Court will consider a range of scheduling options and other alternatives if arguments cannot be held in the Courtroom before the end of the Term." Right now they're conducting private conferences remotely, with Roberts in the court and the others joining remotely. They intend to decide all the cases that were argued prior to the coronavirus emergency and have been releasing opinions online for the last two weeks.