Federal judge rules ‘Obamacare,’ individual mandate unconstitutional

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A federal judge ruled Friday the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, as well as the law itself, is unconstitutional.

The ruling, made by Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, was on a lawsuit backed by 20 state attorneys general, including West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey. The plaintiffs argued “Obamacare” is unconstitutional in light of the repeal of the individual mandate in last year’s tax overhaul legislation.

The U.S. Department of Justice did not defend the constitutionality of the federal health care law in the lawsuit, Texas v. United States.

When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld “Obamacare” in 2012, Chief Justice John Roberts said the individual mandate requiring people to have health insurance is a tax, and thus is allowed by the U.S. Constitution.

“Meanwhile, Congress was explicit: The individual mandate is essential to the ACA, and that essentiality requires the mandate to work together with the Act’s other provisions,” O’Connor wrote. “If the ‘other provisions’ were severed and preserved, they would no longer be working together with the mandate and therefore no longer working as Congress intended. On that basis alone, the Court must find the individual mandate inseverable from the ACA.”

President Donald Trump called the ruling “great news” in a tweet.

“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 also said, referencing House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, shared Friday evening his concerns regarding the ruling.

“If upheld, this would throw out not only the law’s pre-existing condition protections, but also everything else — premium subsidies, expanded Medicaid, preventive services, and much more,” he said on Twitter.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said his office will challenge the decision.

“The ACA has already survived more than 70 unsuccessful repeal attempts and withstood scrutiny in the Supreme Court. Today’s misguided ruling will not deter us: our coalition will continue to fight in court for the health and well-being of all Americans,” he said.

The lawsuit was the subject of attacks during the U.S. Senate contest in West Virginia; Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., criticized Morrisey for his office’s involvement and introduced a resolution asking the Senate Legal Counsel to represent the body in Texas v. United States.

Forty-nine senators — 47 Democrats and two independents — supported the resolution.

Manchin repeatedly said around 800,000 West Virginians with pre-existing conditions would be at risk of losing insurance coverage if the Affordable Care Act was struck down.

“This misguided and inhumane ruling will kick millions of Americans and tens of thousands of West Virginians off of their health insurance. West Virginians with pre-existing conditions will be at risk of losing their health insurance. And the thousands of West Virginians who gained health insurance through the Medicaid expansion will no longer qualify,” he said following the ruling.

“This ruling is just plain wrong. I look forward to its appeal to a higher court, and I intend to fight to ensure that the Senate has an opportunity to intervene to defend these critical health safeguards. I urge West Virginia’s Attorney General to withdraw from this dangerous lawsuit on behalf of the tens of thousands of West Virginians who will be harmed.”

Manchin also said the Senate needs to pass legislation to fix the current health care system

Morrisey said on the campaign trail he supports protecting coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions, yet opposed the current health care law.

“We now have a unique opportunity to scrap this law, attack skyrocketing premiums and HC costs, and protect people with preexisting conditions and those who need help the most. Let’s get this done in WV and in Congress,” Morrisey tweeted Friday evening.

Senate Republicans introduced legislation in August to protect coverage for pre-existing conditions. Fifteen senators — all Republicans — have backed the bill, including West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito.

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