Judge rules Obamacare unconstitutional
A federal judge in Texas has ruled that, due to changes in tax law last year that repealed the individual mandate to buy Obamacare insurance, the entire Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.
The bombshell ruling by Judge Reed O'Connor will be appealed, and Obamacare will remain in effect during that process.
President Trump took to Twitter on Friday night to tout the judge's ruling while calling on congressional leaders to work on a new law, despite the chances of Congress passing a replacement law that both parties can agree being essentially zero.
"Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions. Mitch and Nancy, get it done!" Trump tweeted, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and expected incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
O'Connor, an appointee of President George W. Bush, acknowledged in his ruling that health care is a "politically charged affair – inflaming emotions and testing civility."
But he added courts "are not tasked with, nor are they suited to, policymaking." Instead, he said they must determine what the Constitution requires. In this, case [sic] O'Connor said the Constitution does not allow the mandate to stand.
The 2012 Supreme Court ruling declared that the mandate was a tax. But last year, Congress repealed the penalty for not buying insurance. The judge ruled that this means that the mandate is no longer a tax, and since the mandate cannot be separated from the entire ACA, the law itself is unconstitutional.
Legal experts in both parties have denounced that argument, saying it is obvious that Congress wanted the rest of the Affordable Care Act to remain when it repealed only the mandate penalty last year.
Democrats accused the judge of waiting until after the election to issue the ruling, saying he knew striking down the law before the election would harm Republicans.
The court case, brought by 20 GOP-led states, was at the center of this year's campaign after Democrats attacked Republicans for supporting the lawsuit and seeking to overturn ObamaCare's protections for pre-existing conditions.
The Trump administration, in a rare move, declined to defend the law in court and instead argued the pre-existing condition protections should be overturned.
Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan, wrote on Twitter Friday night that he thinks the ruling does not prevent the Affordable Care Act from remaining in effect while the appeals process plays out, because there is no injunction from the court.
"Everyone should remain calm," he wrote.
The decision is an outlier, but it gives Congress an opportunity to redraw the entire ACA – without the insurance mandate or mandatory coverage that make policies so expensive. There is bipartisan sentiment to save the pre-existing conditions mandate, but beyond that, there is little the two sides agree upon.
From what we've seen over the years from the federal courts, this decision is likely to be reversed. But it is still an important statement that upholds constitutional principles – something that should have happened in 2012, when Chief Justice John Roberts inexplicably sided with liberal judges in upholding the mandate.
I can't think of a government program that has failed so spectacularly to live up to the promises made by its supporters in Congress and the White House. But courts can't overturn a law based on how many lies were told to get it passed in the first place. Despite the ruling yesterday, we are likely to see Democrats try to "fix" Obamacare when they take power in the House in January. They may very well attempt to pass some form of "Medicare for All," which would cost $32 trillion over ten years. Now, more than ever, the power-grab by the federal government to take over private health insurance has to be stopped before the U.S. health care industry is destroyed.