On Friday, a federal judge in the Lone Star State decided that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.
O'Connor issued his decision in response to a lawsuit by Republican officials in 20 states led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Certain providers of substance abuse treatment, emergency services and mental health services could also be negatively impacted. It's too soon to say what the ruling will mean for the fate of the law since it is expected to face appeal and likely end up before the Supreme Court.
In a landmark decision in 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the law by declaring that mandate was actually a tax, which Congress had the authority to impose.
Obamacare expanded by millions the number of Americans with medical insurance. "@HouseGOP are the only ones who have passed a sound bill that protects those with preexisting conditions, & we will keep fighting for lower premiums while ensuring families make their own health care choices &, regardless of their health status, can obtain affordable coverage".
A Supreme Court ruling in their favor would be Republicans' only shot at overturning the law in the foreseeable future, with Democrats taking control of the House in January.
The White House applauded O'Connor's ruling, but said the law remains in place while appeals proceed. The court did not issue an injunction, and the Trump administration has asserted that it will continue to enforce the terms of the ACA pending appeal, notwithstanding its vocal opposition to the law. "Today's misguided ruling will not deter us: our coalition will continue to fight in court for the health and well-being of all Americans", said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is leading a coalition of states defending the ACA. They also argued in the alternative that should the individual mandate be invalidated, that provision should be severed from the ACA, leaving the rest of the law intact in accordance with congressional intent.
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Other insurers that slipped included Molina Healthcare Inc. and Anthem Inc., companies that have benefited from either the insurance exchanges or the law's Medicaid expansion.
Supporters of the law immediately said they would appeal. "In the short run, this decision will be stayed pending appeals".
Twenty states, including Texas, filed a case claiming that without the penalty, the mandate can no longer be upheld as a tax.
The 2012 Supreme Court case was over whether such a penalty was legal - but now that it is gone, O'Connor says the whole Affordable Care Act should be stricken down because the provision is "the keystone" of the program.
"In the interim, it provides Congress with a real opportunity recognizing that Obamacare is on life support to pull together and make a determination of the things that we need to do to provide sufficient healthcare for all Americans including pre-existing conditions", he said, after show host Steve Doocy complained his own daughter has deductibles on her own Obamacare plan that are too hard to meet.
Experts said the problem with O'Connor's ruling is that Congress previous year eliminated the penalty without repealing the entire law.