The Texas-based federal judge who ruled that Obamacare is unconstitutional earlier this month will let the program stand as is until the the appeals process plays out, according to news reports.
Northern Texas U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor had knocked down Obamacare in toto in his Dec. 14 ruling, saying that once divorced from the individual mandate for every American to buy health insurance — which was killed by the Republican tax reform of 2017 — the program became unconstitutional.
However, given the certainty of an appeal from a group of Democrat attorneys general, O’Connor on Sunday issued a stay of his decision for the moment, noting that “many everyday Americans would otherwise face great uncertainty during the pendency of appeal,” according to the Washington Examiner.
The move echoed the White House’s position on the matter.
“We expect this ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court. Pending the appeal process, the law remains in place,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement after O’Connor’s ruling was announced, according to NBC News.
O’Connor’s ruling was in response to a suit by 19 attorneys general and a governor, all Republicans, who argued that Obamacare is inseparable from the individual mandate.
The individual mandate, which imposed a tax penalty on those who didn’t have health insurance, had essentially been gutted as part of President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts. The penalty for being uninsured had been reduced to $0, effectively making it void.
“Once the heart of the (Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare) — the individual mandate — is declared unconstitutional, the remainder of the ACA must also fail,” the suit, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, read.
Judge O’Connor agreed. In his ruling, the George W. Bush appointee said that “without marching through every nook and cranny of the ACA’s 900-plus pages,” the law obviously hinged upon the existence of the individual mandate.
Trump’s Justice Department had also joined the suit but asked that certain parts of Obamacare — those dealing with issues like pre-existing conditions and Medicaid expansion, among others — ought to be left standing. O’Connor’s ruling did away with the bill as a whole.
A group of Democrat attorneys general who had contested the lawsuit, said they planned a quick appeal.
“Today’s ruling is an assault on 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, on the 20 million Americans who rely on the ACA’s consumer protections for health care, and on America’s faithful progress toward affordable health care for all Americans,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the reliably liberal Demiocrat who led the opposition to the suit, said after O’Connor’s decision.
House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi also called O’Connor’s ruling “absurd” and said the 116th Congress “will move swiftly to formally intervene in the appeals process to uphold the life-saving protections for people with pre-existing conditions and reject Republicans’ effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act.”
Paxton, meanwhile, had hailed the ruling.
“Today’s ruling enjoining Obamacare halts an unconstitutional exertion of federal power over the American health care system while our multistate coalition lawsuit works its way through the courts,” Paxton said in a statement.
“Our lawsuit seeks to effectively repeal Obamacare, which will give President Trump and Congress the opportunity to replace the failed social experiment with a plan that ensures Texans and all Americans will again have greater choice about what health coverage they need and who will be their doctor.”
The case is almost certainly destined for the Supreme Court, which is why almost nobody seems to be in a rush to enforce O’Connor’s ruling.
Enforced or not, however, make no mistake — this lawsuit could be the best chance yet to finally dismantle Obamacare.
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