Obamacare ruled unconstitutional by U.S. federal judge in Texas

Obamacare ruling thrusts health debate into spotlight
WATCH: Obamacare ruling thrusts health debate into spotlight

Obamacare is unconstitutional.

So declared a federal judge in Texas, who was adjudicating a case in which states argued they were hurt by an increase in the number of people who ended up on insurance rolls.

The decision throws the health insurance of as many as 20 million people into doubt.

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The case, which was rendered in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Texas, saw a Texas-led coalition of 19 states argue that the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — was unconstitutional following the passage of tax legislation last year.

The individual mandate was a fee paid by Americans if they could afford health insurance but chose not to buy into it.

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Republicans had tried to strike down the mandate in the courts, but when they couldn’t do that, they included a repeal of the mandate in the Tax Cuts and and Jobs Act of 2017, Bloomberg reported.

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With the mandate’s repeal, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling that Obamacare was constitutional could no longer be considered valid.

The states involved in the case further argued that the whole health-care law was no longer valid without the tax.

Judge Reed O’Connor agreed with them, declaring the mandate and Obamacare “inseverable and therefore invalid.”

U.S. President Donald Trump called the decision “great news for America.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that the decision “vindicates President Trump’s position that Obamacare is constitutional.”

“Once again, the president calls on Congress to replace Obamacare and act to protect people with pre-existing conditions and provide Americans with quality, affordable health care,” Sanders said.

However, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the decision would be appealed right away, Politico reported.

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He had led an effort to intervene in the challenge of the health-care law.

Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said the ruling “seems to be based on faulty legal reasoning, and hopefully it will be overturned.”

The Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010 with the aim of providing “near-universal” health insurance coverage and working to “lower health insurance premiums,” said the background to O’Connor’s decision.

The act established the individual mandate as a “requirement” for Americans to “maintain minimum essential coverage.”

The mandate forced non-compliers to pay $695 per adult or 2.5 per cent of a family’s income in 2017, the decision noted.

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The act faced constitutional challenges by states, businesses and individuals. One of those cases, National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) vs. Sebelius, was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012.

That case challenged the individual mandate and the expansion of Medicaid, arguing that these actions were beyond Congress’ powers.

The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately decided the individual mandate was beyond Congress’ power under a section of the Constitution known as the Interstate Commerce Clause.

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However, the court also decided the individual mandate was “salvageable” under Congress’ “Tax Power.”

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Then came the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed by a Republican-dominated Congress in 2017.

That act basically eliminated the individual mandate fee, bringing the payment down to zero.

In his decision, O’Connor said the individual mandate is “no longer fairly readable as an exercise of Congress’s Tax Power and continues to be unsustainable under Congress’ Interstate Commerce Power.”

He therefore found the law unconstitutional.

Democratic House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi issued a statement saying that the Republican-dominated Congress “tried and failed to destroy the Affordable Care Act and protections for pre-existing conditions.”

“Then, in the midterm election, the American people delivered a record-breaking margin of almost 10 million votes against House Republicans’ vile assault on health care,” Pelosi added.

She said Democrats in the House of Representatives would “move swiftly” to intervene in the appeals process for this decision and try to “uphold the life-saving protections for people with pre-existing conditions and reject Republicans’ effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act.”

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