Court Rules ACA Individual Mandate Unconstitutional, Putting Future of Obamacare at Risk

An appeals court ruled that the Obamacare individual mandate is unconstitutional but stopped short of invalidating the entire law, CNN reports.

The challenge to the law was brought by Texas and other Republican-led states after the party failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act in Congress.

The Justice Department reversed its longheld position and joined the lawsuit, which argues that the entire law should be invalidated.

"If you think it's such an outrageous position, you have nothing to worry about. Let the courts do their job," Attorney General Bill Barr told Congress earlier this year.

Appeals court strikes down individual mandate:

The appeals court ruling is the second court ruling that found the individual mandate unconstitutional. But the appeals court sent the case back to a lower court to rule on whether the rest of the law can remain in effect without the individual mandate.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts upheld Obamacare in 2012 as a tax, pointing to the mandate. But Republicans launched an effort to invalidate the law after Congress removed the penalty in its 2017 tax cut bill.

“The individual mandate -- most naturally read as a command to purchase insurance -- was saved from unconstitutionality because it could be read together with the shared responsibility payment as an option to purchase insurance or pay a tax," the appeals court ruled on Wednesday. "It could be read this way because the shared responsibility payment produced revenue. It no longer does so. Therefore the most straightforward reading applies: the mandate is a command. Using that meaning, the individual mandate is unconstitutional."

Obamacare at risk:

The appeals court ruled that the earlier decision, which invalidated the full law, went too far. The appeals court tasked the lower court with figuring out how the law could work without the mandate.

“The judges also said Judge O'Connor must take a second look at the law after the Trump administration made new arguments late in the game that had said the law should only be struck as it applies to the states that brought the challenge,” CNN reported. “Invalidating the law in only the 18 states in the lawsuit would throw the nation's health care system into chaos and deepen the inequality of access to health care that already exists. Also, several provisions -- such as making it easier to obtain lower-cost versions of certain complex drugs, changing Medicare payment rates or increasing certain taxes on wealthier Americans -- would be difficult to divide up by state.”

"It is no small thing for unelected, life-tenured judges to declare duly enacted legislation passed by the elected representatives of the American people unconstitutional,” the appeals court said.


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