A judge ruled that Obamacare is unconstitutional, putting the future of the federal healthcare law in jeopardy.
The decision, issued by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in the Northern District of Texas — a George W. Bush appointee, is likely to face an appeal.
The suit in the case, Texas v. Azar, was brought by 20 Republican state officials, who have asked that all of Obamacare be thrown out as a consequence of the new tax law, which zeroed out a penalty on the uninsured, known as the “individual mandate.” The officials argued that the penalty was central to making the rest of the law work, and that without it, the rest should crumble.
O’Connor appeared to sympathize with this argument in his opinion.
“Congress stated many times unequivocally — through enacted text signed by the president — that the individual mandate is ‘essential’ to the ACA,” he wrote of the Affordable Care Act, the formal name for Obamacare. “And this essentiality, the ACA’s text makes clear, means the mandate must work ‘together with the other provisions’ for the Act to function as intended.”
O’Connor was talking about the Obama administration’s argument for the mandate in a 2012 Supreme Court case.
Texas v. US Order by on Scribd
Judge Reed O’Connor, an appointee of President George W. Bush, acknowledged that health care is a “politically charged affair — inflaming emotions and testing civility.”
But he added courts “are not tasked with, nor are they suited to, policymaking.” Instead, he said they must determine what the Constitution requires. In this, case O’Connor said the Constitution does not allow the mandate to stand.
The reasoning of the ruling states that in 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the mandate to have coverage because of Congress’s power to tax. But, last year, Congress removed the fine for failing to comply with the mandate, which, he argues, means the mandate is no longer a tax and therefore is unconstitutional.
In a controversial move, the judge added that because the mandate is “essential” to the rest of the law, without the mandate, the entire law is invalid.
Legal experts in both parties have denounced that argument, saying it is obvious that Congress wanted the rest of the Affordable Care Act to remain when it repealed only the mandate penalty last year.
Democrats accused the judge of waiting until after the election to issue the ruling, saying he knew striking down the law before the election would harm Republicans.
The court case, brought by 20 GOP-led states, was at the center of this year’s campaign after Democrats attacked Republicans for supporting the lawsuit and seeking to overturn ObamaCare’s protections for pre-existing conditions.
The Trump administration, in a rare move, declined to defend the law in court and instead argued the pre-existing condition protections should be overturned.
Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan, wrote on Twitter Friday night that he thinks the ruling does not prevent the Affordable Care Act from remaining in effect while the appeals process plays out, because there is no injunction from the court.
“Everyone should remain calm,” he wrote.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
December 14th, 2018