Federal Court's Affordable Care Act Ruling Bolsters Case for Medicare for All

17 December, 2018, 16:54 | Author: Lillian Steele
  • Win for Donald Trump US judge rules against Obamacare

On December 14, 2018, a federal district judge sitting in Texas ruled that, without the so-called "individual mandate" which requires individual taxpayers to maintain minimum essential coverage, the rest of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as amended (widely known as the "ACA") is "INVALID".

The political fight over replacing Obamacare, the last U.S. president's signature healthcare policy, all but ended a year ago when Republicans failed to pass a bill replacing it.

O'Connor's decision was issued the day before the end of a 45-day sign-up period for 2019 health coverage under the law.

O'Connor explained in his ruling that by passing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 - pushed by Republicans, signed last December by Trump and including a rollback of the individual mandate - Congress reduced the ACA's shared-responsibility payment to zero, effective January 1, 2019. The case will likely head to the Supreme Court. "We have to prevent a government shutdown", she said.

The O'Connor ruling underscored the high political stakes involved in the divide over healthcare, especially for Trump and his fellow Republicans ahead of the 2020 presidential election. According to an analysis by the Urban Institute, eliminating the Affordable Care Act, which was passed in 2010, would increase the number of uninsured people by 50 percent with an additional 17 million people having no health coverage.

"Yes, there are things to do, but we should be working to improve the Affordable Care Act, not just throw it out and set it on fire", Klobuchar said.

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On Friday, O'Connor ruled that after the enactment a year ago by Trump of a landmark tax bill, the ACA's individual mandate requiring most Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a tax could no longer be considered constitutional.

Supporters of the law immediately said they would appeal. This will have to go through a circuit court process. But, "O'Connor is so far off the reservation here that virtually any (appeals) panel will reverse him", Jost said.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of ME, who was one of the key votes thwarting a GOP effort to rollback the 2010 health care law as part of a dramatic late night session of the Senate, said she thought the broad sweep of the O'Connor ruling would be overturned on appeal.

"A lot of this depends on congressional intent, and if a majority of the House and a majority of the Senate say that this case should be overturned, it'll have a tremendous effect on the appeal", Schumer said Sunday. 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". Even with control of both chambers of Congress and the White House in 2017, Republicans could not push through a repeal.

Sen. Susan M. Collins, Maine Republican, said Sunday that she doesn't regret voting for the Republican tax bill that cleared the way for 20 states to challenge the rest of the law. "Yesterday's court decision also underscores what we have believed - it is an unconstitutional law". Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said he wants a vote in Congress to intervene in the case. "This decision denies coverage to more than 100 million Americans, including seniors, veterans, children, people with disabilities, hardworking Americans with low incomes, young adults on their parents' plans under age 26, and millions of Americans with preexisting conditions". Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said on Twitter, "The exchanges are still open for business".

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