Jen Psaki: Supreme Court Case on Health Care is an Opportunity to Unify


TO: Interested parties
FROM: Jen Psaki, Demand Justice Senior Advisor
RE: Supreme Court Case on Health Care is an Opportunity to Unify

Monday marks ten years since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, and it is under attack again. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a lawsuit supported by the Trump administration that threatens to undermine every part of the law, from protections for people with preexisting conditions to insurance for millions of people now covered by Medicaid expansion.

The Court is scheduled to hear this case next term, which means it will be looming over the national debate for the entirety of 2020. Key filings will likely be due over the summer, which will force the Trump administration and Republican attorneys general to yet again remind the public that they are trying to kick millions of Americans off their health insurance.

Just as Republican efforts to repeal the ACA in Congress unified Democrats around the shared goals of protecting access to health care and taking back the House, this case offers an opportunity to unify the party and jumpstart organizing to win back the White House and the Senate, protect the House, and take back the courts.

Polling shows this can be another health care election.

Even before the current crisis, protecting and expanding access to health care was a top priority for all Americans and Democrats in particular. Just last week, exit polls found health care was the most important issue to Democratic primary voters in ArizonaFlorida, and Illinois. In fact, health care has been the dominant issue for Democratic primary voters in exit polling across states. A February Kaiser Family Foundation poll found health care was a top issue for all voters and for swing voters in particular, with more than one-third of Democrats and 28% of Independents listing health care as the most important issue in deciding their vote in 2020.

As the fight over the repeal and replace efforts showed, the possibility of losing access to health care mobilizes Americans like few other issues. While Republicans debated repealing the ACA, Americans flooded town halls and the halls of Congress. In the midterm campaign, House Democrats took control of Congress with a message laser-focused on protecting the Affordable Care Act. During the crucial last month of the campaign, a majority of ads from Democrats focused on health care. In November, a plurality of voters picked health care as the most important issue facing the country, and those voters picked Democrats over Republicans 3:1. By reminding Americans that the threat to the ACA remains very much alive, Democrats can again bring millions of people into the fight to protect access to health care.

Republicans have an effective model on the courts. We should follow it.

We have allowed Republicans to dominate the conversation about the courts for too long. In 2016, more than one-quarter of people who voted for Donald Trump said in exit polls that the Supreme Court was the most important factor in their voting.

Democrats, meanwhile, failed to make the issue a central issue in the debate. Despite the fact that Senate Republicans were refusing to hold a vote on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, the nomination was not mentioned one time during a prime-time speech at the Democratic National Convention. That was a mistake and we shouldn’t repeat it.

Trump’s focus on the courts and the Kavanaugh nomination fight have laid the foundation to fully engage Democrats on the courts, and this case should catapult it to the top of everyone’s priority list. By linking protecting access to care with taking back the judicial system, this case should make judges a unifying issue for Democratic voters in the same way it has become for Republicans following years of organizing around the 2nd Amendment and Roe v. Wade. This case should remind all Democrats of what we have to lose from an ultra-conservative Supreme Court threatening to shred major progressive accomplishments.

Health care and the courts can unify Democrats and put Republicans on defense.

Though recent debates have focused on the differences between plans to build on the Affordable Care Act, this case should be a reminder of how much we have in common when it comes to health care. The ongoing assault on access to care and the threat of a Supreme Court ruling that kicks millions off their health care should bring together Democrats from across the ideological spectrum.

Democrats should go on offense to make sure Americans understand the importance of this case and who is responsible. We should not let legal minutia distract from the core fact that health care for tens of millions of Americans is at risk because of a Republican-led lawsuit that only has a shot of succeeding because a majority of Supreme Court justices are far-right Republicans. Every American should know that the Trump Justice Department is actively supporting efforts to end protections for Americans with preexisting conditions. Every Republican who voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh over the objections of pro-health care advocates should be made to answer for having put protections for people with preexisting conditions at risk.