A Federal judge sitting in Texas has declared on Friday that the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare unconstitutional. It argued that since the Congress has removed the penalty from individual mandate, based on its mandate requiring that people buy health insurance, it is no longer constitutional.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth agreed with the coalition of 20 states challenging the law led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, both Republicans.
They argued that change in tax law last year eliminating a penalty for not having health insurance invalidated the entire Obamacare law.
The decision underscores a divide between Republicans who have long sought to invalidate the 2010 law since its inception and have repeatedly tried and failed to repeal it. and Democrats who fought to keep it in place.
The White House said the ruling will be put on hold during an appeals process that’s destined to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Coalition argued to the judge that they’ve been harmed by an increase in the number of people on state-supported insurance rolls. They claimed that after Trump signed a $1.5 trillion tax bill passed by Congress last year that eliminated the penalties, the individual mandate, it eliminated the U.S. Supreme Court’s rationale for finding the ACA constitutional in 2012.
“In some ways, the question before the Court involves the intent of both the 2010 and 2017 Congresses,” he wrote. “The former enacted the ACA. The latter sawed off the last leg it stood on.”
The Texas judge agreed. He likened the debate over which provisions of the law should stand or fail to “watching a slow game of Jenga, each party poking at a different provision to see if the ACA falls.” He also wrote that it’s clear the individual mandate is the linchpin of the law “without marching through every nook and cranny of the ACA’s 900-plus pages.”
“The court must find the individual mandate inseverable from the ACA,” he said. “To find otherwise would be to introduce an entirely new regulatory scheme never intended by Congress or signed by the president.”
O’Connor’s decision was issued the day before the end of a 45-day sign-up period for 2019 health coverage under the law.
About 11.8 million consumers nationwide enrolled in 2018 Obamacare exchange plans, according to the U.S. government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
A spokeswoman for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who was among a group of Democratic attorneys general defending the law, blasted the O’Connor’s ruling. said
“Today’s ruling is an assault on 133 million Americans with preexisting conditions, on the 20 million Americans who rely on the ACA’s consumer protections for health care, and on America’s faithful progress toward affordable health care for all Americans,”
Meanwhile, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement the law would remain in place pending its expected appeal to the Supreme Court
The recent federal court decision is still moving through the courts, and the exchanges are still open for business and we will continue with Open Enrollment. There is no impact to your current coverage and your coverage in a 2019 plan.
Trump hailed the ruling and called on Congress to act through his Twitter handle.
“Wow, but not surprisingly, ObamaCare was just ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL by a highly respected judge in Texas. Great news for America!”
“As i predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster! Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions. Mitch and Nancy, get it done!”
U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement he hoped the decision would be overturned.
“If this awful ruling is upheld in the higher courts, it will be a disaster for tens of millions of American families, especially for people with pre-existing conditions,” Schumer said in a statement.
The American Medical Association had described the decision as “an unfortunate step backward for our health system.”
Some health-care law experts have criticized the Judge’s ruling and predicted overturned.
Professor of Law Nicholas Bagley at University of Michigan said.
“We know what Congress’ intent was in 2017, that was to pull the individual mandate while keeping the rest of ACA intact,” “Now we have a judge saying we have an unenforceable mandate. This whole thing is bonkers.”he added.
You will recall that in June, the Justice Department partially sided with the Republican state attorneys general, agreeing that the individual mandate must be struck down as unconstitutional but arguing several other provisions could survive.
The ruling came a day before the end of the fifth open enrollment season for Affordable Care Act coverage in most states, one in which sign-ups for “Obamacare,” as the coverage sold through the law’s marketplaces is known, have declined so far by about 12 percent compared with last year.