Federal judge rules Obama's health care overhaul unconstitutional

Late on Friday, in a ruling that stunned the healthcare industry, a federal judge in Texas decided that the Affordable Care Act, as it is officially known, was unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor in Fort Worth agreed with a coalition of Republican states that the law needed to be eviscerated after Congress a year ago zeroed out a key provision - the tax penalty for not complying with the requirement to buy insurance.

Nineteen states, including Texas, and consumers then filed suit contending that the revised law was unconstitutional because the individual mandate was so integral to the law that it could not function without it.

Representative Nancy Pelosi, who's likely to become Speaker in the new Congress, called the ruling "absurd", adding that Democrats in the House will "swiftly intervene in the appeals process" once they take control in January.

The fall in healthcare stocks pulled the broader S&P 500 managed health care index down 2.5 percent.

An estimated 52 million Americans have pre-existing health conditions that insurers could've denied coverage to under pre-ACA rules in most states, the Foundation says.

"This is a backward, poorly-reasoned decision, but it does not change the fact that the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land", said Democratic Maine Attorney General, and Governor-elect, Janet Mills.

"This outrageous ruling threatens health coverage for millions of Americans". The Republican-led Congress a year ago eliminated a penalty that the ACA levied on people who opted not to obtain insurance. The healthcare law has faced fierce opposition from the Republican Party.

Republican state officials, led by the attorney general of Texas, filed a lawsuit a year ago arguing that getting rid of the penalty rendered the mandate unconstitutional.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the leader of a coalition of states defending the law in court, already has promised to appeal.

If last week's ruling that ObamaCare is unconstitutional is appealed, it will be upheld in the Supreme Court, according to Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano.

As a result of the ruling, the outlook for American health care is bright, Henneke said.

Yes. In 2012, the Supreme Court reasoned that while government can not order citizens to buy something, Obamacare's "shared-responsibility payment" (a.k.a. penalty) for not having an insurance plan effectively amounts to a tax, which is an acceptable government practice.

"There's no reason why the individual mandate can't be struck down and keep all the good provisions" in the law, Collins said on CNN's "State of the Union". The state officials contended that the elimination of the penalty nullified the effects of a 2012 Supreme Court ruling allowing the mandate and penalty.

Congress had reduced the tax penalty to zero in tax changes last December.

Barack Obama reminded people that Saturday is the final day to enroll for Obamacare in 2019 and claimed that the significance of the ruling has been overstated.

Judge O'Connor's sweeping ruling finds that since the "individual mandate "is essential to" and inseverable from "the other provisions of the ACA"... the remaining provisions of the ACA..."

But some experts noted that when Congress passed the ACA in 2010, lawmakers acknowledged that the requirement that insurers provided coverage for pre-existing medical conditions had to be paired with the mandate in order to work.

The Texas judge was not constrained by these recommendations and concluded that the penalty's elimination had a much more profound impact, the effect of which could a host of other health coverage issues, including Medicaid expansion; annual and lifetime coverage limits; the employer coverage mandate; federal health care reimbursement rates for hospitals; coverage for adults up to age 26 under their parents' plan; and caps on out-of-pocket costs.

  • Delores Daniels