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Texas Judge Rules Affordable Care Act Unconstitutional

Legal experts are skeptical the decision will be upheld on appeal

screenshot of healthcare.gov website on a laptop

Open enrollment continued as usual on Saturday, the deadline to enroll for 2019 coverage.

AP/Shutterstock

A Texas judge ruled on Saturday to strike down all aspects of the Affordable Care Act, deeming it unconstitutional and putting Democrats’ and former President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare legislation in peril.

If the ruling by the Republican-appointed judge stands, it would remove coverage for pre-existing conditions and “essential health benefits” such as mental health, substance abuse, prescription medications, as well as infant, pediatric and maternal care. But the ruling still has to make its way through the court system before a final decision on the fate of the legislation is reached. It may go to the Supreme Court, which upheld the Affordable Care Act in a 5-4 decision in 2012.

The judge declared the individual mandate, which is now toothless without a tax penalty, unconstitutional and struck down all of the ACA as a result. But legal experts are skeptical the ruling will be upheld. “The legal merits of the case are frivolous,” University of Michigan law professor Nicholas Bagley told the Associated Press. “The notion that the unconstitutionality of an unenforceable mandate somehow requires toppling the entire ACA is bonkers.”

Responding to the judgment, Obama emphasized that the ruling “changes nothing for now.” He wrote: “As this decision makes its way through the courts, which will take months, if not years, the law remains in place and will likely stay that way. Open enrollment is proceeding as planned [Saturday]. And a good way to show that you’re tired of people trying to take away your health care is to go get covered!”

President Donald Trump celebrated the ruling in a tweet. He has long been an opponent of the Affordable Care Act, as have congressional Republicans, who have pushed to repeal the legislation.

Trump also declared victory when speaking with reporters on Saturday: “It was a big, big victory by a highly respected judge, highly, highly respected in Texas, and on the assumption that the Supreme Court upholds, we will get great, great health care for our people. We’ll have to sit down with the Democrats to do it, but I’m sure they want to do it also.”

With Democrats taking control of Congress in 2019, aides to the incoming speaker, Nancy Pelosi, told the New York Times that Democrats intend to intervene in the case and vote on a resolution shortly after the new Congress is in session.

Newswire

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