Federal judge in Texas rules ACA is unconstitutional: 8 things to know

A federal judge in Texas has ruled that the entire ACA is unconstitutional, and a fight against the ruling is expected to ensue, according to The New York Times.

Eight things to know:

1. The Dec. 14 ruling is on Texas v. United States, a lawsuit filed by 20 states seeking to undo the ACA. States joining the lawsuit with Texas are Wisconsin, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia.

2. U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor in his ruling said the individual mandate requiring people to have health insurance "can no longer be sustained as an exercise of Congress' tax power," according to the Times.

The judge said that "the individual mandate is unconstitutional" and the rest of the ACA is invalid.

3. The case centers on the involved states' claim that the ACA is unconstitutional because the tax law signed by President Donald Trump in December 2017 eliminates the ACA's individual mandate penalty. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled the individual mandate penalty was a tax. Since the mandate to have health insurance stands, but the "tax" was eliminated, the states argue the mandate is unconstitutional. The lawsuit also argues that the entire ACA is unconstitutional because the mandate is not severable from the rest of the law.

4. The U. S. Justice Department said in June it would not defend major provisions of the ACA, including the individual mandate and provisions guaranteeing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Subsequently, 16 states and the District of Columbia received permission to intervene in the case and defend the health law.

5. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who initiated the coalition, pledged to "continue the fight" after the Dec. 14 ruling.

"Today's ruling is an assault on 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, on the 20 million Americans who rely on the ACA for healthcare and on America's faithful progress toward affordable healthcare for all Americans," he said. "The ACA has already survived more than 70 unsuccessful repeal attempts and withstood scrutiny in the Supreme Court. Today's misguided ruling will not deter us: Our coalition will continue to fight in court for the health and well-being of all Americans."

6. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised the Dec. 14 ruling:       

"Today's ruling halts an unconstitutional exertion of federal power over the American healthcare system," he said. "Our lawsuit seeks to effectively repeal Obamacare, which will give President Trump and Congress the opportunity to replace the failed social experiment with a plan that ensures Texans and all Americans will again have greater choice about what health coverage they need and who will be their doctor."

7. The legal path of the case moving forward remains unclear, according to The Washington Post. Timothy Jost, a health law expert who is a professor emeritus at Lexington, Va.-based Washington and Lee University, told the publication that since Judge O'Connor granted summary judgment in the case and not an injunction, "it's unclear whether this is a final judgment, whether it's appealable, whether it can be stayed."

8. The White House has issued a statement, cited by the Post, saying, "We expect this ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court. Pending the appeal process, the law remains in place."

Access the full Times article here and the full Post article here.  

Emily Rappleye and Ayla Ellison contributed to this report.


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