Effect of Judge Ruling Affordable Care Act Unconstitutional Delayed for Appeal

Medicine bottles

On Friday, a federal judge in the Lone Star State decided that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.

Was the Friday ruling by U.S. District Judge Reed C. O'Connor of Fort Worth already a dead letter, an empty constitutional declaration that stood for nothing? He deemed that mandating the purchase of health insurance was unconstitutional - and thus that the whole law should be tossed out.

O'Connor's ruling "exposes the monstrous endgame of Republicans' all-out assault on people with pre-existing conditions and Americans' access to affordable health care", Pelosi said in a statement.

U.S. Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin released a statement saying, "Wisconsin should have never signed on to this lawsuit and Scott Walker has not only broken his promise to protect people with pre-existing conditions, he has now signed legislation preventing Governor-elect Evers from keeping his promise to take our state's good name off this attack on people's health care".

The case is likely to reach the US Supreme Court, where the five justices in the nine-judge court who voted to uphold Obamacare in a separate case in 2012 are still on the bench. Both insurers have a total ACA exposure of more than 40 percent of EPS, followed by WellCare Health at 10 percent, JPMorgan analyst Gary Taylor reminded investors in an email late Friday.

Yet prior litigation over the law dubbed Obamacare suggests seemingly far-fetched arguments can go far and roil the courts.

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In theory, the ruling could have a drastic effect on the health insurance landscape: Medicaid expansion would be deemed illegal; young people would not be able to stay on their parents' insurance until age 26; and the mandate to offer an essential benefits package would no longer apply.

President Donald Trump termed the ruling "a big big victory by a highly respected judge" and an alternative path to the long-time Republican goal of repeal-and-replace. He did not, however, issue an injunction, meaning the law can continue to be applied as the appeal process continues. But the group of Republican governors and state officials who brought the current lawsuit argue that since the penalty for not buying coverage has been reduced to zero, the mandate is no longer a tax and thus is now not allowed under US law. "And that's because it was probably the most unpopular and unfair provision of the Affordable Care Act", Collins said. But this won't be a straightforward win for anybody: Democrats and Republicans are divided within their own parties over the best way forward, be that single-payer health care, Obamacare, a repeal or something else.

"When Democrats forced Obamacare down the throats of the American people on a purely partisan basis, they threatened that the law needed to be passed so that people could find out what was in it", House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said on Twitter on Friday. Amy Klobuchar said, adding that the decision was "absurd". Americans should have the ability to buy a health plan that meets their needs, rather than what Washington tells them. "If they can't get it done in Congress, they'll keep trying in the courts, even when it puts people's pre-existing conditions coverage at risk".

But the same editorial noted that more is at stake than simply the tax question, while predicting the ruling would be overturned on appeal in the end.

While ACP hopes and anticipates that this decision by a single federal judge in Texas will be reversed on appeal, we take nothing for granted and will be doing all that we can to ensure that patients do not lose current law protections. Imagine a world where Judge O'Connor's ruling is upheld. He likened the debate over which provisions of the law should stand or fail to "watching a slow game of Jenga, each party poking at a different provision to see if the ACA falls".

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