Federal judge in Texas rules Obama health-care law unconstitutional

Cheryl Sanders
December 15, 2018

In a ruling released Friday evening, a federal judge in Texas sided with 19 states arguing that key provisions of the Affordable Care Act or "Obamacare" are unconstitutional.

A coalition of 20 states argued the entire law had been invalidated by a change in tax rules a year ago which eliminated a penalty for not having health insurance.

Judge O'Connor ruled that, therefore, the mandate without a tax penalty attached was unconstitutional, and so too the rest of the law.

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O'Connor's ruling comes one day ahead of when Obamacare's marketplaces will close for most of the country's open enrollment period. "And this essentiality, the ACA's text makes clear, means the mandate must work "together with the other provisions" for the Act to function as intended". "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.

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.

The judge's decision vindicates President Trump's position that Obamacare is unconstitutional. "For the reasons stated above, the Court grants Plaintiffs partial summary judgment and declares the Individual Mandate, 26 U.S.C. § 5000A (a), UNCONSTITUTIONAL". The judge's ruling will also be immediately appealed.

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Becerra called Friday's ruling "an assault on 133 million Americans with preexisting conditions, on the 20 million Americans who rely on the ACA's consumer protections for healthcare, on America's faithful progress toward affordable healthcare for all Americans".

US Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said: "If this terrible ruling is upheld in the higher courts, itwill be a disaster for tens of millions of American families". "It will destabilize health insurance coverage by rolling back federal policy to 2009". California and other states had intervened to defend the 2010 health care law after the Trump administration declined to defend its provisions that guarantee coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, arguing that those provisions can not be separated from the mandate. It agreed that the zeroing out the penalty renders the individual mandate unconstitutional but argued that that invalidates only the law's protections of those with pre-existing conditions. "Pending the appeal process, the law remains in place".

The ACA can only stand as it was originally designed by Congress, O'Connor added, saying that lawmakers needed to have the penalty to force people to sign up for exchange insurance.

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Paxton says President Donald Trump's tax plan previous year made the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional because it did away with the tax penalty levied on those who didn't have insurance.

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