Federal Judge Rules ACA is Unconstitutional

December 2018 ~

A federal judge has ruled that the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional on the grounds that its mandate requiring people to buy health insurance is unconstitutional and the rest of the law cannot stand without it.

The December 14 ruling was over a lawsuit filed this year, Texas v. United States, 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.

The case centers on the involved states’ claim that the ACA is unconstitutional because the tax law signed by the President 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.

In his ruling, Judge Reed O’Connor of the Federal District Court in Fort Worth said that the individual mandate requiring people to have health insurance “can no longer be sustained as an exercise of Congress’s tax power.” Judge O’Connor agreed with the plaintiffs, in his ruling, that the individual mandate could not be severed from the rest of the ACA because it was “the keystone” of the law, essential to its regulation of the health insurance market. O’Connor stated he would not “parse the A.C.A.’s provisions one by one,” but had to invalidate the whole law, including the expansion of Medicaid and the requirement for employers to offer coverage to workers. “The Medicaid-expansion provisions were designed to serve and assist fulfillment of the individual mandate,” he wrote.

The U. S. Justice Department said in June though it disagreed with the plaintiffs that the entire law should be struck down, 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.

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.”

Source(s): The New York Times; Becker’s Hospital Review; Washington Post; NPR;