Texas Judge Rules ACA Unconstitutional

On Friday, December 14, a federal judge in Texas ruled the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare,” unconstitutional. But it’s not quite that cut and dried. The “unconstitutionality” of the ACA lies not in the entire piece of legislation, but in the individual mandate portion. Nevertheless, because of the way the ACA is written, declaring the individual mandate unconstitutional deems the entire ACA unconstitutional, according to District Judge Reed O’Connor, of Texas.

Congress’ 2017 tax reform bill included a change to the ACA’s individual mandate. Originally, the individual mandate required that every American purchase health insurance (if not covered by an employer’s policy) or face a tax penalty. The 2017 tax reform bill, however, eliminated the tax penalty.

Judge O’Connor ruled that when a tax penalty was attached to the individual mandate, Congress was exercising its Constitutional taxing power. Without the tax mandate, however, O’Connor ruled that Congress was overreaching its authority.

“Individual Mandate can no longer be fairly read as an exercise of Congress’s Tax Power and is still impermissible under the Interstate Commerce Clause—meaning the Individual Mandate is unconstitutional,” said O’Connor in his opinion, adding that the individual mandate is “essential to and inseverable from the remainder of the ACA.”

Judge O’Connor’s ruling goes further than the Trump administration originally asked. Invalidation of the individual mandate and the provision that protects those with pre-existing conditions were the only provisions the Trump administration had sought to overturn.

Tim Jost, a professor at Washington and Lee University, said that (in addition to the individual mandate and the pre-existing condition provision), “O’Connor’s order would invalidate many provisions of the Medicaid program, the Medicare program and other federal laws.”

Jost added, however, “Judge O’Connor has declared the individual mandate unconstitutional and the rest of the Affordable Care Act invalid, but he has not blocked its continued operation.”

“Today’s ruling is an assault on 133 million Americans with preexisting conditions, on the 20 million Americans who rely on the ACA’s consumer protections for healthcare, on America’s faithful progress toward affordable healthcare for all Americans,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “…The ACA has already survived more than 70 unsuccessful repeal attempts and withstood scrutiny in the Supreme Court.”

California and 16 additional blue states argue that the individual mandate is still constitutional, but that even without it, the ACA could stand. The Texas federal judge’s decision on the ACA will without question be appealed.

Texas Judge Rules Obamacare Unconstitutional | KPIX CBS SF Bay Area  [2018-12-04]

Federal judge strikes down Obamacare | Fox News [2018-12-14]

Does the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Repeal Obamacare?; How Obamacare Has Failed (or Not)

This week, Donald Trump and the GOP celebrated the passage, along party lines, of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. In his celebratory speech, Trump told his audience that, among other things, the Republicans’ tax bill “essentially repeals Obamacare.”

Below is Trump’s speech, including, at 4:58 in the clip, his assertion that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will end Obamacare (The Affordable Care Act):

President Trump & GOP Full VICTORY Speech at White House After Tax Bill Passes |  Right Side Broadcasting Network |  [2017/12/20]

Though the Republican tax bill does include a change to Obamacare, it doesn’t wipe out the entire law; it only puts an end to the individual mandate portion. The Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate requires that all Americans purchase health insurance coverage or pay a tax penalty.

Trump boasts about sneaky provision in tax bill that ‘repeals’ Obamacare
New York Daily News | [2017/12/20]

House Republicans Have Passed the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act | House Republicans | [2017/12/19]

Some say that the tax bill’s elimination of the individual mandate is a good thing (people who don’t feel they need health insurance will no longer be required to buy it). Others argue that with fewer healthy people in insurance pools, premiums will increase for those who do elect to buy health insurance.

Middle-income Americans who opt out of purchasing health insurance will either rejoice in the newfound money in their pockets once the tax bill is implemented, or they’ll be surprised at how little it impacts them at all – perhaps until they are sick and need to visit an emergency room.

Will most Americans be relieved that they will no longer have to spend money on health insurance premiums if they choose not to be covered? Or will the increased number of uninsured Americans as a result of the Republicans’ tax bill cause a chain of costly events that ultimately leads to frustration with the American health care system? Will this eventually lead to Americans’ ripeness for a complete health care system overhaul…say, to a single payer system?

How Obamacare Has Failed (Or Not)
The GOP has long insisted that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is a “massive failure.” They cite such issues as the high cost of many health exchange participants’ premiums, the limited choices of insurers and plans available on the exchanges, and the increased costs of providing health care.

Obamacare has failed the American people |  The White House | [2017/6/21]

Obamacare Must Go  |  CNN Money  |  2017/2/7

Most Democrats, while admitting that the Affordable Care Act currently has its failings, maintain that it’s been a significant step toward ensuring that all Americans have access to health care. They point out the fact that since the passage of Obamacare, approximately 20 million more people now have health insurance. In addition, Democrats tout such aspects of the Affordable Care Act as limits on out-of-pocket spending for health care, and the requirement to cover those with pre-existing conditions while protecting them against higher premiums.

Perhaps one of the most misunderstood, but most meaningful aspects of the Affordable Care Act, though, is the guaranteed coverage of a list of “essential health benefits.” These include preventive care (such as annual physical exams), mental health services, prescriptions, and other services deemed necessary for maintaining good health (and thus, ideally, helping to prevent the high cost of illness).

Obamacare’s “Essential Benefits” Explained | CNN | [2017/3/24]

Whether you’re feeling alarmed or victorious about this change to Obamacare through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and whether you think Obamacare is a miserable failure or a huge success, the changes to it will impact all of us.