A federal appeals court has agreed with a lower court’s ruling that Obamacare’s individual mandate is unconstitutional.
A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans ruled, 2-1, the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which required most Americans to purchase healthcare insurance in order to avoid a penalty tax, is indeed unconstitutional.
The decision upholds that of Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas and creates another likely U.S. Supreme Court face-off on the issue of former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare reform during a presidential election year.
The ruling stated:
[T]he 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. 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 sent the case back to the lower court to decide the issue of severability — whether the entire law is to be struck down.
“It may still be that none of the ACA is severable from the individual mandate, even after this inquiry is concluded,” wrote Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod in her majority opinion. “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.”
In response to the Fifth Circuit Court’s decision, President Donald Trump released the following statement:
Today’s decision in Texas v. Azar is a win for all Americans and confirms what I have said all along: that the individual mandate, by far the worst element of Obamacare, is unconstitutional.
This decision will not alter the current healthcare system. My Administration continues to work to provide access to high-quality healthcare at a price you can afford, while strongly protecting those with pre-existing conditions. The radical healthcare changes being proposed by the far left would strip Americans of their current coverage. I will not let this happen. Providing affordable, high-quality healthcare will always be my priority. They are trying to take away your healthcare, and I am trying to give the American people the best healthcare in the world.
O’Connor wrote in his decision for the district court that since the individual mandate is “essential” to the rest of the ACA, then all of Obamacare is invalid:
Congress stated many times unequivocally — through enacted text signed by the president — that the individual mandate is “essential” to the ACA. And this essentiality, the ACA’s text makes clear, means the mandate must work “together with the other provisions” for the Act to function as intended.
The lawsuit was filed by Texas and 18 other Republican-led states.
The White House also released a fact sheet demonstrating how Trump is working to provide Americans with higher quality health care at lower costs.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) noted in a statement that, in 2012, the Supreme Court “upheld Obamacare despite serious constitutional issues with the federal government forcing Americans to purchase a product from a private company.”
Grassley, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and other senators introduced the Protect Act, legislation that seeks to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions.
“Congress should work to ensure that no matter the ultimate outcome, Americans who have pre-existing conditions are protected from losing their insurance or facing discrimination,” he said. “This is something that has broad, bipartisan support. The only reason for Democrats not to act on legislation like the Protect Act is because they would prefer to keep a partisan political issue alive. That’s the definition of putting politics before people and it shouldn’t stand.”