Just the Facts

Five Facts on the Ruling That Declared ObamaCare Unconstitutional

By No Labels
December 19, 2018 | Blog

Last Friday a federal judge ruled the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, placing the health care of millions of Americans in limbo. Here are five facts about the ruling:

The 2012 landmark Supreme Court case, National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, upheld significant portions of the Affordable Care Act and solidified it as law

Perhaps most importantly the court ruled that the individual mandate, the requirement that every American citizen either have health insurance or pay a tax penalty, was constitutional. The majority opinion stated that the tax penalty was constitutional because it fell within Congress’ right to impose taxes. However, following the abolishment of the tax penalty with the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017, opponents of the ACA saw an opportunity to challenge the law once again.

In early 2018 a group of 20 states with Republican governors or legislatures filed a lawsuit against the ACA

The case against the Affordable Care Act came in two parts. First, while the tax penalty for not carrying health insurance had been abolished, the individual mandate still stands; it just doesn’t have any teeth.  Because the individual mandate was specifically upheld by the Supreme Court due to its status as a tax, the states argued that without the tax penalty, the individual mandate is no longer constitutional. However, the states took their argument a step further, arguing in the second part of their case that  “once the heart of the ACA—the individual mandate—is declared unconstitutional, the remainder of the ACA must also fall.”

On December 14 a federal judge in Texas ruled in favor of the states, determining the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) to be unconstitutional

Judge Reed O’Connor agreed with the states’ argument that an individual mandate unmoored from a tax was unconstitutional. In his ruling O’Connor stated, “The court today finds the individual mandate is no longer fairly readable as an exercise of Congress’s tax power and continues to be unsustainable under Congress’s interstate commerce power.”  While the ruling is expected to be appealed and likely will not have an immediate impact, it is the biggest legal hit the law has taken since it was upheld by the Supreme Court.

Former President Barack Obama harshly criticized Republicans for their sustained opposition to the ACA

The Affordable Care Act was one of President Obama’s signature legislative achievements while in office and since leaving two years ago he has dedicated much of his time to ensuring that the law remains intact. Following the ruling the former president struck a reassuring tone in a post on his Facebook page writing, “As this decision makes its way through the courts, which will take months, if not years, the law remains in place and will likely stay that way.” He then turned his attention to the Republican opponents of the law, emphatically stating, “Republicans will never stop trying to undo all that. If they can’t get it done in Congress, they’ll keep trying in the courts, even when it puts people’s pre-existing conditions coverage at risk.”

While President Trump has been outspoken in his support of the ruling, many congressional Republicans have stayed quiet

On Friday evening the president tweeted: “Wow, but not surprisingly, ObamaCare was just ruled Unconstitutional by a highly respected judge in Texas. Great news for America!” However, only several weeks removed from the 2018 midterms in which many Republicans promised that they would protect issues such as pre-existing conditions, the ruling has also put many lawmakers in an awkward spot. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) highlighted the dilemma that many Republicans face, stating “There is widespread support for protecting people with pre-existing conditions. There’s also widespread opposition to the individual mandate.”

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