Obamacare ruled unconstitutional by federal judge in Texas

Pearl Mccarthy
December 15, 2018

The court "finds the individual mandate, unmoored from a tax, is unconstitutional", U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor, an appointee of President George W. Bush presiding in Texas, wrote in his opinion.

"The lawsuit had to do with whether when Congress previous year repealed or eliminated the penalty for not having insurance - it was a tax penalty for people who didn't have insurance - whether that meant the rest of the law didn't apply anymore". The judge ruled that the law's individual mandate violates the Constitution and therefore the entire ACA violates the Constitution.

The case against the ACA, also known as Obamacare, brought by 20 Republican state attorneys general and governors, as well as two individuals.

The decision Friday finding the ACA unconstitutional comes just before the end of a six-week open enrollment period for the program in 2019 and underscores a divide between Republicans who have long sought to invalidate the law and Democrats who fought to keep it in place.

"Perhaps it is impossible to know which minor provisions Congress would have passed absent the individual mandate", O'Connor wrote.

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 previous year.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra's office said the state would appeal the ruling. "The judge's decision vindicates President Trump's position that Obamacare is unconstitutional".

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President Trump, who lambasted his own party for failing to repeal and replace the law as promised, applauded the decision.

The top Senate Democrat on Friday night criticized the court's decision. It revolves around Congress effectively eliminating the individual mandate penalty by reducing it to $0 as part of the 2017 tax cut bill. The states said the rest of the law should fall with it, including protections for people with preexisting medical conditions like cancer or diabetes. Because the mandate is an essential part of the ACA in the judge's view, that led him to rule that the entire health law should be struck down.

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.

The move now threatens 20 million who rely on its coverage. They don't need their own health insurance.

California and Democratic officials in 14 states, along with the District of Columbia, won permission to defend ACA in the Fort Worth case when the Trump administration sided with the states seeking to dismantle it.

A federal judge in Texas has ruled the Affordable Care Act "invalid" on the eve of the sign-up deadline for coverage next year. And in a statement late Friday, the White House ensured the public that the Affordable Care Act would remain in effect as the ruling is being appealed.

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