Biden administration asks U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Obamacare law

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(Reuters) - President Joe Biden’s administration on Wednesday told the U.S. Supreme Court that the Obamacare healthcare law should be upheld, reversing the position taken by the government under his Republican predecessor Donald Trump.

The court in November held oral arguments in a bid by Republican-governed states led by Texas to invalidate the Affordable Care Act, as the 2010 law is formally known. Trump’s administration had sided with the states challenging Obamacare. A ruling is due by the end of June.

Biden’s administration notified the court of the government’s new position in a letter filed by Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler.

The case represents the latest Republican legal attack on Obamacare, Democratic former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement. Republicans failed numerous times to repeal it in Congress, and Trump’s administration took steps to hobble the law.

Biden, who was Obama’s vice president when the law was enacted, has promised to protect and build on Obamacare, which has enabled millions of Americans to obtain health insurance by expanding public healthcare programs and creating marketplaces for private insurance. Republicans have called it a government overreach.

The position reversal at the Supreme Court was expected considering Biden’s public statements on Obamacare, and Kneedler said there is no need for further legal briefing before the court decides the case. The law had been defended in the case by Democratic-led states and the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.

At the heart of the case is whether a provision of the law called the “individual mandate” that required Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a financial penalty was lawful. The Republican challengers had argued that the mandate was unconstitutional and that, as a result, the entire law should be struck down.

Kneedler told the court that the government “no longer adheres to the conclusions in the previously filed brief” submitted by Trump’s administration. The Biden administration believes that the individual mandate was constitutional and, even if it was not, the rest of the law should remain in place, Kneedler added.

During the argument in November, it appeared unlikely the court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, would strike down the entire law.

Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham