Published: Sat, December 15, 2018
Medical | By Bryan Strickland

Federal judge in Texas rules Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional

Federal judge in Texas rules Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was struck down by a Texas judge on Friday, a move that could suddenly disrupt the health insurance status of millions of Americans.

A big one, of course, is that Congress previous year repealed what's called the mandate penalty, so if you don't have health insurance, you will no longer have to pay a tax penalty for not having it, although a lot of people actually don't even know that.

An alliance of 19 Republican attorneys general and a governor led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton challenged the law.

Lawyers for the Department of Justice had suggested that O'Connor should not rule until after the open enrollment period for the 2019 plan year ends on December 15 in order to avoid disrupting the markets. "Further, the Court declares the remaining provisions of the ACA are INSEVERABLE and therefore INVALID".

The attorney for the suit, Robert Henneke, said the Affordable Care Act is no longer legal because Congress deleted the individual mandate in the GOP's tax bill past year. Without that penatly, he wrote, "Obamacare" is unconstitutional.

Congress, however, eliminated the tax penalty last December as part of President Trump's major tax overhaul.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that the decision "vindicates President Trump's position that Obamacare is constitutional".

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He followed that missive with another celebratory tweet, demanding that House Speaker-Designate Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) immediately work on replacement legislation that will protect pre-existing conditions and provide great health care.

Although Democratic attorneys general, lawmakers, and policy analysts have repeatedly maintained that the TCJA zeroed out the penalty rather than eliminated it, O'Connor disagreed. There is no reason to not sign up while the implications of the judge's ruling are tested.

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown tweeted: "This decision threatens the health coverage of 20 million people and undermines pre-existing condition protections for all Americans".

About 20 million people have gained health insurance coverage since the ACA passed in 2010 without a single Republican vote. California and other states had intervened to defend the 2010 health care law after the Trump administration declined to defend its provisions that guarantee coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, arguing that those provisions can not be separated from the mandate.

Legal expert Timothy Jost, a supporter of the health law, said O'Connor's ruling would have repercussions for almost all Americans if it stands.

Prior to the Affordable Care Act, insurers often rejected applicants who are or had been ill or offered them only limited coverage with high rates. "Pending the appeal process, the law remains in place".

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