At the face of huge protests nationwide, a federal judge in Texas strikes down former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) declaring it is unconstitutional to mandate people to buy health insurance. U.S. Court Judge Reed O’Connor issued the decision, arguing that the healthcare law is inconsistent with the Constitution because it mandates having health insurance, failing which consumers have to face a tax penalty.
The mandate remained in effect for 2018 and was an integral aspect of ACA legislation, also known as Obamacare. However, the lawsuit was filed by O’Connor with a coalition of 20 states, mentioning that “the individual mandate requiring people to have health insurance can no longer be sustained as an exercise of Congress’s tax power.” According to him, “the individual mandate is unconstitutional” and other provisions of the ACA, therefore, stands invalid.
Earlier in 2012, the Supreme Court supported the mandate, saying it is constitutional and Congress has the power to legally impose a tax penalty on individuals who do not have health insurance. However, it is when Congress reduced the tax penalty to zero dollars as an initiative of the tax overhaul signed by President Trump that twenty plaintiff U.S. states, led by Texas, argued that the individual mandate stands unconstitutional with the penalty zeroed out.
About 11.8 million consumers nationwide enrolled in Obamacare exchange plans in 2018, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Unfortunately, the coalition of states challenging the ACA law is “potentially threatening health-care coverage for millions of Americans and setting up a new legal showdown over former President Barack Obama’s signature policy initiative.”
In response to the new case, the Justice Department’s retort was unusual. Though it disagreed with the plaintiff states that the entire Obamacare law should be ruled out, it declined to defend the individual mandate as well as the ACA’s provisions that provide coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. This invoked the District of Columbia and 16 states, led by California, to defend the law.
Talking in this regard, Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, said: “Today’s ruling is an assault on 133m Americans with pre-existing conditions, on the 20m Americans who rely on the ACA’s consumer protections for health care, on America’s faithful progress towards affordable health care for all Americans.” He further added, “The ACA has already survived more than 70 unsuccessful repeal attempts and withstood scrutiny in the Supreme Court.”
On the other hand, Ken Paxton, the attorney general of Texas who initiated the lawsuit, said in a statement, “Today’s ruling enjoining Obamacare halts an unconstitutional exertion of federal power over the American health care system.” The objective, according to him, is to give Congress and President Trump an opportunity to ensure all Texans and Americans have a greater choice of health coverage they need. Mr. Trump, who has always sought to repeal Obamacare and has weakened it through regulatory changes, has expressed his support on Twitter in favor of the new ruling.
Now it is time to wait and watch where the new case ultimately stands and what will be the impact on the Americans holding health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
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