TX Judge: ACA Unconstitutional 12/15 10:27
A conservative federal judge in Texas has ruled the Affordable Care Act
"invalid" on the eve of the sign-up deadline for next year. But with appeals
certain, even the Trump White House said the law will remain in place for now.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A conservative federal judge in Texas has ruled the
Affordable Care Act "invalid" on the eve of the sign-up deadline for next year.
But with appeals certain, even the Trump White House said the law will remain
in place for now.
In a 55-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor ruled Friday that
last year's tax cut bill knocked the constitutional foundation from under
"Obamacare" by eliminating a penalty for not having coverage. The rest of the
law cannot be separated from that provision and is therefore invalid, he wrote.
Supporters of the law immediately said they would appeal. "Today's misguided
ruling will not deter us: our coalition will continue to fight in court for the
health and wellbeing of all Americans," said California Attorney General Xavier
Becerra, who is leading a coalition of states defending the ACA.
The White House applauded O'Connor's ruling, but said the law remains in
place while appeals proceed. President Donald Trump tweeted that Congress
should pass a new law.
"As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an
UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster!" Trump tweeted. "Now Congress must pass a STRONG law
that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions."
However, Congress is unlikely to act while the case remains in the courts.
Numerous high-ranking Republican lawmakers have said they did not intend to
also strike down popular provisions such as protection for people with
pre-existing medical conditions when they repealed the ACA's fines for people
who can afford coverage but remain uninsured.
Still, Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who is expected to become House speaker
in January, vowed to fight what she called an "absurd ruling." She said the
House "will move swiftly to formally intervene in the appeals process to uphold
the life-saving protections for people with pre-existing conditions and reject
Republicans' effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act."
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: "We expect this
ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court. Pending the appeal process, the
law remains in place."
Legal expert Timothy Jost, a supporter of the health law, said O'Connor's
ruling would have repercussions for nearly all Americans if it stands. If the
entire health law is invalidated, popular provisions that benefit Medicare
beneficiaries and people with employer coverage would also be scrapped. That
could include the section that allows parents to keep young adult children on
their coverage until age 26.
About 20 million people have gained health insurance coverage since the ACA
passed in 2010 without a single Republican vote. Currently, about 10 million
have subsidized private insurance through the health law's insurance markets,
while an estimated 12 million low-income people are covered through its
Saturday is the sign-up deadline for 2019 private plans through
HealthCare.gov. Meanwhile, a number of states are expected to move forward with
Medicaid expansion after Democratic victories in the midterm elections.
If the case were to reach the Supreme Court it would mark the third time the
justices consider a challenge to fundamental provisions of the law. "Obamacare"
opponents lost both the first two cases.
The five justices who upheld the health law in 2012 in the first major case
--- Chief Justice John Roberts and the court's four liberals --- are all still
Since then public opinion on the ACA has shifted from mostly negative to
Preserving the law's protections for people with pre-existing medical
conditions proved to be a strong argument for Democrats in the midterm
elections. Republicans who tried to undermine those safeguards during their
failed effort to repeal the health law last year were forced on the defensive
and went on record saying they, too, want to make sure people with health
problems can get coverage.
Democrats set to take control of the House in January are talking about
passing legislation that enshrines protections for pre-existing conditions.
It's unclear what form that would take, or if the Republican-majority Senate
would go along and Trump would sign it.
The GOP-led states who brought the lawsuit asked O'Connor to toss out the
entire law after Congress repealed the "individual mandate" penalty for going
without coverage. The conservative judge had previously ruled against other
The Trump administration weighed in, saying the government would no longer
defend some core components of the ACA, but that others could remain, including
Medicaid expansion, subsidies for private insurance and health insurance
Along with the requirement to have health insurance, the administration said
the parts of the law that should go included:
--- The requirement that insurers must take all applicants for comprehensive
coverage regardless of prior health history, including pre-existing conditions.
That includes a prohibition on insurers writing policies that exclude a
particular condition --- for example, a recurrence of breast cancer.
--- The prohibition on insurers charging higher premiums to people with
The health insurance industry says doing away with consumer protections will
destabilize a market that seems to be finding its footing, with modest premium
increases and more plan choices next year.
The American Medical Association called O'Connor's ruling an "unfortunate
step backward for our health system that is contrary to overwhelming public
sentiment to preserve pre-existing condition protections."