Our Roundtable Discussion initiative was created in the Spring of 2019 to provide a new dimension to the legal research and discourse that the Columbia Undergraduate Law Review aims to promote. For each roundtable discussion, CULR staff writers are asked to respond to a prompt or issue from their own perspective in no more than 750 words. With various voices engaged in the discussion of a single legal issue, Roundtable highlights the multi-faceted nature of law in a digestible and accessible way.

Healthcare has long been a contentious issue in American law. Questions concerning jurisdiction, who bears the burden of insurance, and issues within it ought to be handled (if at all) have plagued the American public consciousness for decades.

Everything changed, however, with the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA was a carefully negotiated, bipartisan solution to deficiencies in the then current system which revolutionized health care as we know it. Changes to the status quo, however, inevitably lead to resistance, and numerous legal challenges were brought against the ACA, most famously National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius. The legal battle continues even today, with Texas v. United States and numerous actions performed by the Trump Administration.

In this Roundtable Discussion, we will examine the legal history of the Affordable Care Act, then contemporary legal challenges to its passage, and its potential future in the face of continued Republican backlash.

Executive Editor Online

Abigail Hickman

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Jake is a sophomore in Columbia College majoring in Philosophy, hoping to specialize in moral and political philosophy. He is passionate about political activism, criminal justice reform, and social responsibility. He hopes to attend a joint JD-PhD program upon graduation, and spend his time writing and organizing. 

Staff Writer

Jake Gray


Tiffany Jing is a freshman in Columbia College majoring in Philosophy. As a member of CULR, she has published pieces regarding hate speech on college campuses and data privacy issues and has taken initiative to help launch the first series of podcasts along with the first article for Roundtable. She currently serves as law chair for Columbia's China Business and Law Association and volunteers to coach debate to local high schoolers on the side. 

Staff Writer

Tiffany Jing

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Abhishek Hariharan is a rising sophomore in Columbia College, with a tentative major in Economics-Political Science. He is from South River, New Jersey, and has a profound interest in constitutional and international law. Apart from CULR, Abhishek also is a staff writer for the Columbia Daily Spectator. In the future, Abhishek hopes to go to law school and make a difference in his community. 

Staff Writer

Abhishek Hariharan

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Sonia Mahajan is a sophomore in Columbia College majoring in Political Science with a special concentration in Sustainable Development. In addition to writing for the Roundtable, she is a former Staff Writer and current Lead Editor for CULR. Outside of CULR, Sonia serves as Executive Editor of the Columbia Women in Law and Politics Journal, Co-Events Chair of Active Minds at Columbia, and Junior Coordinator for the 2019 Green Sale.

Staff Writer

Sonia Mahajan


In 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as ObamaCare, was signed into law by President Barack Obama. The landmark healthcare legislation made it illegal to deny people coverage because of pre-existing conditions, allowed people to stay on their parents’ plans until they were twenty-six, provided free preventive services, and expanded coverage to tens of millions of Americans by subsidizing health insurance costs, among other things. [1] The Affordable Care Act also implemented an individual mandate, which required that most Americans obtain (and maintain) health insurance or pay a penalty. 


After decades of controversy regarding the government’s role in ensuring health care for its people, the Supreme Court set a precedent that forever changed the accessibility of health insurance on June 28, 2012. In National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (2012), the Court upheld most provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which aimed to increase the number of people with health care, decrease medical expenses, and expand Medicaid.  


After President Trump entered office, the ACA’s future looked dim, as the new administration seeked to repeal Obamacare. While the vote for the “skinny repeal” of Obamacare failed in 2017, [1] congressional Republicans were able to remove certain key aspects of the original legislation. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA), the ACA’s individual mandate was essentially made null beginning in 2019 [2]. The TCJA lowered the penalty of the individual mandate to $0, gutting a significant portion of the ACA [3].  


A challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is expected to make its way to the Supreme Court sometime in the next few years—a short amount of time in a judicial context. [1] After Judge Reed O’Connor’s 2018 decision in Texas v. Azar, which struck down the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in a Northern Texas court, the issue has become even more pressing. [2] Advocates for the ACA, who triumphed at the Supreme Court in 2011 and 2015, plan to challenge the ruling [3], and their future case is likely to make its way to the Supreme Court due to a conflict of jurisdiction: clearly, the ACA cannot be unconstitutional in Northern Texas and constitutional everywhere else. [4]  

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