The U.S. judicial system will ultimately block a court ruling that questioned the constitutionality of Obamacare, Centene CEO Michael Neidorff told CNBC on Thursday.
A federal appeals court in New Orleans is expected to soon hand down a decision on the legality of the Affordable Care Act, the landmark health-care law enacted under President Barack Obama nearly a decade ago, that could upend the American health system. Neidorff, who also serves as chairman and president of the managed-care company, predicts the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will act to protect the ACA.
“Now we think there’s a chance that the appeals court could overturn” the ruling, he said in a sitdown with “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer. “We know that if they don’t, it’s going to the Supreme Court and we think the Supreme Court will overturn it – not 5-4, it will be 6-3 or 7-2.”
The court case culminated from a Texas federal judge’s decision to invalidate the law late last year. After multiple attempts by Republicans to undo the law through Congress and the Supreme Court failed in recent years, the Trump administration backed Texas and a group of GOP-led states in the effort. U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor of Texas declared the ACA, widely known as Obamacare, unconstitutional without the individual mandate tax penalty that a Republican-controlled Congress repealed the year prior.
The ruling has yet to be implemented.
Democratic-led states and the House of Representatives, now headed by the same party, are advocating for the three-judge panel in New Orleans to reverse the lower court’s December ruling.
Still, the law’s future is unclear, as the court case will have implications on the 2020 elections in both camps. Republicans favor getting rid of the ACA, while some Democratic presidential candidates push to replace the law with “Medicare for All.”
The law provides health coverage for about 24 million Americans, according to The New York Times.
If the appeals court also rules that Obamacare is unconstitutional, it could leave a lot of questions for the open enrollment season. In that case, Neidorff is confident it will be appealed to the nation’s highest court.
“We’re hoping that … the appeals court, Fifth District, does reverse it,” said Neidorff, whose company relies on the Obamacare exchanges. That would remove some uncertainty from the industry, he said.
In the meantime, Centene has found it easier to retain customers on its health plans, Neidorff added.
“People like them, and we’re retaining the individuals longer than we historically have,” he said. “They’re staying longer all the time. And we have 80% of the people each year renewing from the previous year. So it’s a product they like.”