The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Republican-led case seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act on November 10, exactly one week after the presidential election, according to the court's online docket on Wednesday.
A hearing post-election was the likeliest choice from the outset. The justices' October schedule did not include the highly anticipated case, leaving just one day for arguments to potentially be heard before the election.
Still, Wednesday's news does not mean the Supreme Court will make a ruling on the case in 2020. Legal experts say a final ruling is still expected next year.
The ACA court case has loomed large as the nation has been ravaged by the novel coronavirus pandemic that has sickened millions, killed thousands and severed millions of people from their employer-sponsored health insurance coverage.
Alternative coverage options introduced or strengthened by the ACA, such as expanded Medicaid coverage or marketplace plans, have served as an important safety net for those who have lost coverage as a result of the pandemic.
Onlookers have long been waiting for the court to set a date for final arguments in the case against the ACA. Wednesday's updated docket means the country is one step closer to knowing whether the ACA and its popular provisions, such as protections for pre-existing conditions, will remain the law of the land.
Waiting to schedule oral arguments until after the election may have been intentional, legal experts say.
The highly unusual decision by the Trump administration's DOJ to refuse to defend the law is likely to change with the election result, if former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee and a staunch ACA backer, wins the White House.
Republicans for years have been trying to dismantle President Barack Obama's landmark health law, including by eliminating the financial penalty for not holding insurance.
The central argument in the case, brought primarily by a group of red states, is whether the entire law is invalid because it no longer contains the so-called individual mandate. The red states have argued that because Congress lowered the penalty to zero that the individual mandate can no longer be considered a tax and therefore renders the entire law unconstitutional.
Lower courts have ruled in favor of the red state plaintiffs, though the appeals court did not weigh in on whether the rest of the law could be severed from the mandate.