In a ruling released Friday evening, a federal judge in Texas sided with states arguing that key provisions of the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” are unconstitutional. The decision is almost certain to be appealed, but creates new uncertainty for the country’s healthcare system.
Texas led 19 states arguing that the individual mandate — the requirement that everyone must have health insurance — is unconstitutional, after Congress gutted the key portion of the mandate, the tax penalty for not buying coverage.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in the Northern District of Texas agreed with those states and ruled the individual mandate unconstitutional. Because the mandate is an essential part of the ACA in the judge’s view, that led him to rule that the entire health law should be struck down.
The law includes provisions that provide subsidies that help people buy coverage, its expansion of Medicaid to millions of low income people, and its protections that let people with pre-existing conditions buy insurance.
“If this Texas decision on the ACA is upheld, it would throw the individual insurance market and the whole health care system into complete chaos,” Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation said on Twitter. “But, the case still has a long legal road to travel before that’s an immediate threat.”
Fourteen states along with the District of Columbia argued in favor of the law. However, the Trump administration sided with Texas et all. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said the states will continue their defense of the law.
“We’ll continue to fight in court for New Yorkers and all Americans,” she said on Twitter.
The ACA has been a battle between Democrats, who favor the law, versus Republicans who have voted repeatedly to repeal it. The health law was passed in 2010.
President Donald Trump quickly weighed in on Twitter: “Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster! Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions. Mitch and Nancy, get it done!”