With Democrats winning the House back, Republicans are again turning to the Supreme Court to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, and that process started Friday with a long-awaited (but pretty garbage) ruling from a Texas federal judge on the case filed by red state attorneys general.
The decision Friday finding the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional comes just before the end of a six-week open enrollment period for the program in 2019 and underscores a divide between Republicans who have long sought to invalidate the law and Democrats who fought to keep it in place.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth agreed with a coalition of Republican states led by Texas that he had to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act, the signature health-care overhaul by President Barack Obama, after Congress last year zeroed out a key provision -- the tax penalty for not complying with the requirement to buy insurance. The decision is almost certain to be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.
“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 health care, and on America’s faithful progress toward affordable health care for all Americans,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. A spokeswoman for Becerra said an appeal will be filed before Jan. 1.
Texas and an alliance of 19 states argued to the judge that they’ve been harmed by an increase in the number of people on state-supported insurance rolls. They claimed that when Congress repealed the tax penalty last year, it eliminated the U.S. Supreme Court’s rationale for finding the ACA constitutional in 2012.
The Texas judge agreed.
“The remainder of the ACA is non-severable from the individual mandate, meaning that the Act must be invalidated in whole,” O’Connor wrote.
Chief Justice Roberts already critically wounded Obamacare by ending the individual mandate, and the argument is that the entire law must be thrown out because part of it was ruled unconstitutional. Blue states are arguing that the fact SCOTUS refused to do that when they had the chance is proof enough, but Republicans are betting Trump will get to replace either Justice Ginsburg or Breyer soon, and if that happens, the law is certainly gone (along with the entire civil rights, women's rights, and labor rights movements over the last 60 years.)
The battle won't end anytime soon.