ACA mandate ruled unconstitutional

The ACA's individual mandate to buy health insurance is unconstitutional, according to a Dec. 18 decision from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The court did not issue an opinion on whether the entire law is therefore unconstitutional, instead sending that decision back to a district court judge in Texas to decide.

The federal appeals court ruled that the ACA's individual mandate was previously "saved from unconstitutionality" in the landmark 2012 case National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius. In that case, the mandate was interpreted as a choice between buying insurance and paying a tax. When that penalty was zeroed out by the 2017 tax law, it rendered the mandate unconstitutional, the judges ruled on Dec. 18. 

The court sent the remaining part of the legal challenge — determining if the mandate is severable from the ACA or if the entire law is unconstitutional — back to the lower court to decide. U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor, who presides over that court, previously ruled the ACA unconstitutional.

Now the lower court is required to determine, in detail, if all or some portions of the ACA are inseverable from the individual mandate. It is also tasked with considering the Justice Department's new position that the decision should apply only to the plaintiffs, meaning if the ACA is invalidated, it would be invalidated in some states and not others. 

 Read the full opinion here.


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