In the latest legal saga involving President Obama’s signature healthcare law, a federal appeals court in New Orleans ruled Wednesday that the individual mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. In the ruling, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals did not extend that decision to the entire law, leaving it to a lower court to decide if Obamacare can be saved in any form.
From Fox News:
The three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans agreed with Texas-based U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor’s finding that the insurance requirement was rendered unconstitutional when, in 2017, Congress eliminated a tax penalty on people without insurance.
“The individual mandate is unconstitutional because it can no longer be read as a tax, and there is no other constitutional provision that justifies this exercise of congressional power,” the ruling said. “On the severability question, we remand to the district court to provide additional analysis of the provisions of the ACA as they currently exist.”
The appeals court concluded because the individual mandate was unconstitutional, the law’s funding mechanism could not be enforced in the current version of the Affordable Care Act.
Other parts of the law may survive, but the appeals court deferred to the lower court to decide the severability question —whether the entire law must be struck down or what parts of the law could still exist. It comes as the administration is working with Congress for a replacement health care reform law.
In her majority ruling, Judge Jennifer Elrod said, “It may still be that none of the ACA is severable from the individual mandate, even after this inquiry is concluded. It may be that all of the ACA is severable from the individual mandate. It may also be that some of the ACA is severable from the individual mandate, and some is not.”
Reactions to the ruling were predictably mixed.
“Obamacare has failed to live up to its promises,” tweeted Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY). “This ruling highlights the need to modernize and personalize health care for every American. Republicans are focused on protecting people with pre-existing conditions and lowering the cost of care.”
Meanwhile, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has devoted his recent career to suing President Trump, was irate.
“For now, the President got the gift he wanted — uncertainty in the healthcare system and a pathway to repeal — so that the healthcare that seniors, workers and families secured under the Affordable Care Act can be yanked from under them,” he sniped in a statement.
If the courts cannot resolve the issue of the ACA’s continued viability, the case could ultimately go back before the Supreme Court.