Court Strikes Down Part of ObamaCare, Casting Doubt on Law's Future.
A federal appeals court on December 18 shot down the now-neutralized ObamaCare requirement compelling Americans to have health insurance.
While the ruling gave a final deathblow to the "individual mandate," it did not weigh in on the overall constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, meaning the rest of the healthcare law remains in effect for now.
The 2-1 ruling came from a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The panel concurred with a 2018 finding by Texas-based U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor, who said the individual mandate was rendered unconstitutional when Congress set the tax on Americans without health insurance to zero back in 2017.
That year, 20 attorneys general from across the country filed a suit in O'Connor's court claiming that ObamaCare lost validity when Republicans essentially voided the law's enforceability by reducing the penalty to zero via their tax reform bill.
The unconstitutionality of the individual mandate made the entire Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, O'Connor said, though his ruling was appealed and the healthcare law was allowed to remain in effect throughout the appeals process.
The court on December 18 did not reach a decision on the question of how much of ObamaCare goes down with the insurance mandate, but sent the case back to O'Connor with the guidance that he must be specific as to which parts of the Affordable Care Act cannot be separated from the mandate. The judge must also take into account Congress' decision to leave the rest of the law unchanged when it set the penalty to zero.
President Trump lauded the appeals court's decision in a December 18 statement, calling it a "win for all Americans," while Flouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the ruling a "chilling threat" to those who depend on ObamaCare.
Congress previously failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. With the fate of its constitutionality now at stake, Barack Obama's signature legislative achievement is likely to become a campaign issue going into the 2020 presidential election.