A federal judge in Texas said on Friday that the Affordable Care Act's individual coverage mandate is unconstitutional and that the rest of the law must also fall.
"A federal judge in Texas threw a dagger on Friday into the Affordable Care Act, ruling that the entire health-care law is unconstitutional because of a recent change in federal tax law", writes the Washington Post. The case will now go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, where the majority of the judges have been appointed by Republican presidents.
Twenty Republican state attorneys general initially sued the Trump administration to invalidate the entire law in February, citing Chief Justice John Roberts' opinion.
The Texas court ruling came a day before the deadline for Obamacare enrolment for the coming year. "Further, the Court declares the remaining provisions of the ACA are INSEVERABLE and therefore INVALID". The lawsuit argues that, with the enforcement of the insurance requirement gone, there is no longer a tax, so the law is not constitutional anymore.
The ruling "exposes the monstrous endgame of Republicans' all-out assault" on Americans most in need of healthcare, said soon-to-be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, vowing to act swiftly once she was returned to her rightful place in January. "The judge's decision vindicates President Trump's position that Obamacare is unconstitutional".
Republicans have opposed the 2010 law, the signature domestic policy achievement of President Donald Trump's Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, since its inception and have repeatedly tried and failed to repeal it.
"Today's ruling enjoining Obamacare halts an unconstitutional exertion of federal power over the American health care system while our multistate coalition lawsuit works its way through the courts", Attorney General Paxton said.
The top Senate Democrat on Friday night criticized the court's decision. The ruling threatens the ObamaCare health exchanges and aspects of the Affordable Health Care law, including a ban on insurance companies' refusing to cover pre-existing conditions.
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.
In Texas alone, there are more than 4.5 million "nonelderly adults" with pre-existing conditions that could make it hard for them to get health insurance if Obamacare went away, statistics show. After Trump ordered the Justice Department to stop defending the health law, a coalition of ACA-supporting states took up the defense.
Since Judge O'Connor did not issue an injunction, the Affordable Care Act and its provisions will remain intact for the time being, meaning no one with an insurance plan via the ACA will lose coverage.