As part of the tax overhaul a year ago, Republicans succeeded in eliminating the ACA individual mandate penalty, beginning in January, 2019. A group of states, Alabama, Georgia and Texas among them, filed a lawsuit arguing that “once the heart of the ACA – the individual mandate – is declared unconstitutional, the remainder of the ACA must also fall”. On December 14, 2018, Texas Federal Judge Reed O’Connor agreed with the Plaintiffs and struck down the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) in a detailed 55 page opinion. It his final conclusion, the judged declared the Individual Mandate of the Affordable Care Act (26 U.S.C. § 5000A(a)) unconstitutional and declared the remaining provision of the ACA inseverable and therefore invalid.
The lawsuit is opposed by a coalition of 17 Democratic attorney generals, led by California’s Becerra. They argue that even though the individual mandate has been eliminated, it does not affect the ACA’s constitutionality. On December 30, 2018, Judge O’Connor agreed to stay the decision during the pendency of the appeal. As such, until the 5th circuit makes a decision, the ACA is securely in place.
President Trump was quick to voice his glee by tweeting, “as I predicted all along, 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!” He then added, “wow, but not surprisingly, Obama Care was just ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL by a highly respected judge in Texas. Great news for America!”
There are many who disagree with Trump and believe that if the ACA is ruled unconstitutional, it will be detrimental to millions of Americans and result in higher uninsured population and fewer patient protections.
Given Judge O’Connor’s decisions, Americans will have to anxiously await the results of an appeal. Additionally, there is a high probably that the case will be heard by the Supreme Court. As for now, the ACA is still valid and will be until 5th Circuit Court of Appeals makes its decision.
Attorney – Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP