Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law  |  August 1, 2020

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Despite its passage a decade ago, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) remains a politically divisive law. These political divisions have long been on display in Congress, in the White House, and in states. A long-standing stalemate in Congress—where Republicans cannot repeal the law and Democrats cannot improve it—has emboldened efforts by the executive branch to act unilaterally to implement, or undermine, the ACA. In turn, the law’s opponents and supporters have turned to the courts to promote their favored policy agendas through both broadside attacks on the law and targeted challenges to its implementation. Litigation has become politics pursued through other means. These challenges have often been brought, or opposed, by state attorneys general and governors, with red-state coalitions facing off against blue-state coalitions. ACA litigation has also been characterized by forum shopping, nationwide injunctions, and questions about the court as a truly adversarial forum. This article briefly reviews the history of ACA litigation, discusses these legal norms in the context of the historic health reform law, and considers the implications of this history and the changing judiciary for future health reform efforts.

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