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Trump hails judge’s decision striking down Obamacare as ‘unconstitutional’

President Donald Trump on Saturday hailed a court decision against Obamacare as ‘a great ruling for our country,’ while a U.S. government official said the decision by a Texas judge would have no immediate impact on health coverage. 

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth, Texas, on Friday said that Obamacare, known formally as the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), was unconstitutional based on its mandate requiring that people buy health insurance.

In a decision that could reach the U.S. Supreme Court, O’Connor sided with a coalition of 20 states that argued requiring people to pay for insurance coverage is illegal because a change in tax law last year eliminated a penalty for not having health insurance.

‘It’s a great ruling for our country. We will be able to get great healthcare. We will sit down with the Democrats if the Supreme Court upholds,’ Trump told reporters during a visit to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on a rainy Saturday.

President Donald Trump on Saturday hailed a court decision against Obamacare as ‘a great ruling for our country,’ while a U.S. government official said the decision by a Texas judge would have no immediate impact on health coverage

Trump offered no details on the potential for healthcare talks with the Democrats, who are poised to take majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives in early January. The Senate will remain in Republican hands.

O’Connor’s decision was issued the day before the end of a 45-day sign-up period for 2019 health coverage under the law.

The head of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which oversees the Affordable Care Act, said there were no changes and exchanges were open for business.

‘We expect this ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court,’ CMS Administrator Seema Verma wrote on Twitter on Saturday. 

‘Pending the appeal process, the law remains in place.’

‘There is no impact to current coverage or coverage in a 2019 plan,’ she said late on Friday.

Since the law’s formative stages amid concern about millions of Americans lacking health insurance, Republicans have opposed Obamacare, calling it a costly and unneeded government intrusion into Americans’ lives. 

Trump campaigned against it in 2016.

They have repeatedly tried, but failed, to repeal the law, which was the signature domestic policy achievement of former Democratic President Barack Obama. 

Even with control of both chambers of Congress and the White House in 2017, Republicans could not push through a repeal.

The O’Connor ruling underscored the high political stakes involved in the divide over healthcare, especially for Trump and his fellow Republicans ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

If the Supreme Court were to uphold O’Connor’s ruling, it would go a long way toward dismantling Obamacare. 

U.S. District Judge Reed O¿Connor's decision was issued the day before the end of a 45-day sign-up period for 2019 health coverage under the law, which was a signature achievement for former President Barack Obama (seen above in New York City on Wednesday) 

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor’s decision was issued the day before the end of a 45-day sign-up period for 2019 health coverage under the law, which was a signature achievement for former President Barack Obama (seen above in New York City on Wednesday) 

That would be a political victory for Republicans, but it would also likely strip millions of Americans of their health coverage, a policy problem for which Republicans have offered no clear solution.

About 11.8 million consumers nationwide enrolled in 2018 Obamacare exchange plans.

The Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act in 2012.

Two days after the Nov. 6 U.S. congressional elections, a Reuters/Ipsos national opinion poll found that healthcare was the top issue Americans wanted the U.S. Congress to address.

On Friday, O’Connor ruled that after the enactment last year by Trump of a landmark tax bill, the ACA’s individual mandate requiring most Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a tax could no longer be considered constitutional.

He said because the individual mandate was an ‘essential’ part of Obamacare, the entire law, rather than just the individual mandate, was unconstitutional.

Timothy Jost, a health law expert and emeritus professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law in Virginia, said it was ‘silly’ and ‘irresponsible’ for O’Connor to find that the individual mandate could not be separated from the rest of the ACA.

He said judges who find that portions of laws are invalid are required ‘to do as little damage as possible’ to the rest of the law, and O’Connor had ignored that principle.

Jost noted that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which will hear any appeal in the case, is considered the most conservative federal appeals court in the country.

But, ‘O’Connor is so far off the reservation here that virtually any (appeals) panel will reverse him,’ Jost said.

Trump issued two celebratory tweets shortly after the ruling

Trump issued two celebratory tweets shortly after the ruling

Jost noted that in the 2012 case in which the Supreme Court upheld the ACA, a lower appeals court had found the individual mandate unlawful, but ruled it could be severed from the rest of the law. That ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals “is at least as persuasive and probably more persuasive than a decision by a single judge in Wichita Falls, Texas,” Jost said.

He said the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative wing has been skeptical in the past of striking down entire laws because of a single problematic provision, and at least a bare majority of five justices would likely agree that O’Connor was wrong.

On Friday, Trump responded to the ruling on Twitter with glee. 

He first tweeted shortly after 9 pm, ‘As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster! Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions. Mitch and Nancy, get it done!’

He followed that up eight minutes later with a second Tweet.

‘Wow, but not surprisingly, ObamaCare was just ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL by a highly respected judge in Texas. Great news for America!’ 

O’Connor’s decision was issued the day before the end of a 45-day sign-up period for 2019 health coverage under the law.

‘The Individual Mandate can no longer be fairly read as an exercise of Congress’s Tax Power and is still impermissible under the Interstate Commerce Clause — meaning the Individual Mandate is unconstitutional,’ the judge wrote. 

‘The Individual Mandate is essential to and inseverable from the remainder of the ACA.’

‘Without [the individual mandate], Congress and the Supreme Court have stated, the architectural design fails,’ according to O’Connor. ‘It is like watching a slow game of Jenga, each party poking at a different provision to see if the ACA falls.’

A year ago, Trump signed a $1.5trillion tax bill that included a provision eliminating the individual mandate. 

In the 55-page opinion, O’Connor ruled Friday that last year’s tax cut bill knocked the constitutional foundation from under ‘Obamacare’ by eliminating a penalty for not having coverage. 

About 11.8 million consumers nationwide enrolled in 2018 Obamacare exchange plans, according to the U.S. government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The coalition of states challenging the law was led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, both Republicans.

Republicans have opposed the 2010 law, the signature domestic policy achievement of President Donald Trump’s Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, since its inception and have repeatedly tried and failed to repeal it.

The White House hailed Friday’s ruling, but said the law would remain in place pending its expected appeal to the Supreme Court.

‘Once again, the president calls on Congress to replace Obamacare and act to protect people with preexisting conditions and provide Americans with quality affordable healthcare,’ White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

In June, the Justice Department declared the healthcare law’s ‘individual mandate’ unconstitutional in federal court. 

The decision was a break with a long-standing executive branch practice of defending existing statutes in court.

JUDGE’S PREVIOUS RULINGS 

 U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, is no stranger to the conservative resistance to Obama administration policies.

O’Connor, 53, is a former state and federal prosecutor who was nominated to the federal bench in 2007 by President George W. Bush. He has been active in the Federalist Society, which describes itself as ‘a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order.’

In 2014, the Fort Worth, Texas-based judge upheld the constitutionality of an Arlington, Texas, ordinance that bars people from handing out printed material at busy intersections and roads. The lawsuit had been brought by a gun-rights group called Open Carry Tarrant County. Although he upheld the ordinance, O’Connor ordered the city to pay the group’s coordinator $42,251 in damages.

That same year, he sentenced a man to more than 15 years in federal prison for kidnapping and severely beating a gay man he met through an online service, concluding the assailant kidnapped the man because of his sexual orientation.

In 2016, though, he blocked a federal directive that required public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. He ruled that Title IX, which the Obama administration cited in support of the directive, ‘is not ambiguous’ about sex being defined as ‘the biological and anatomical differences between male and female students as determined at their birth.’

Also in 2016, he struck down new U.S. Health and Human Services regulations that advised that certain forms of transgender discrimination by doctors, hospitals and insurers violated the Affordable Care Act. He declared that the rules placed ‘substantial pressure on Plaintiffs to perform and cover (gender) transition and abortion procedures.’ A coalition of religious medical organizations said the rules could force doctors to help with gender transition contrary to their religious beliefs or medical judgment.

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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