Friday, a federal judge in Texas ruled the Affordable Care Act (ACA) unconstitutional. While the law will not be overturned yet and is still in effect, the decision will be appealed and may go before the Supreme Court.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled the ACA unconstitutional after 18 Republican state attorneys general and two Republican governors brought a case against the law. They argued that after Congress repealed the individual mandate in 2017, the law was no longer constitutional. They claimed that the Supreme Court upheld the ACA in 2012 because of the individual mandate and tax penalty for people without insurance; without this mandate they believed the law was no longer constitutional. O’Connor agreed and ruled that he law does not hold without the mandate.
Julie Rovner, the chief Washington correspondent of Kaiser Health News, said that “nothing changes for now. If you need to sign up for health insurance, you should. If you’re in one of the several states where it’s extended where you can sign up through January, you have time to do that too.” The ruling is an “enormous disruption,” according to Rovner, and “would really plunge the nation’s health care system into chaos. The federal government wouldn’t be able to pay for Medicare because all the Medicare payments have been structured because of the Affordable Care Act.”
Recent polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 65% of Americans think protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions is “very important.” Democrats and Republicans both ran in the 2018 midterm elections on platforms that focused on protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions. However, Congress has not passed any protections for pre-existing conditions in the case that the law gets overturned. House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi stated after the ruling that she will work to pass legislation to safeguard people with pre-existing conditions from a potential overturn of the ACA.
Congress attempted to repeal the ACA multiple times in 2017 with no success. If the ACA was overturned, over 133 million Americans could face discrimination because of their medical conditions. The ACA also has allowed more than 10 million people coverage under its Medicaid expansion, ensured that people can stay on their parents’ insurance plan until they are 26, required calorie indicators at restaurants, and provided funding for Medicare. California has already announced plans to appeal the ruling.
Media Resources: NPR 12/17/18; Washington Post 12/15/18; Feminist Newswire 4/27/18