U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth, TX, could have ruled on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act before November’s midterm elections. But that would’ve denied Republicans the opportunity to lie repeatedly during the campaign by saying they support protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
O’Connor also could’ve waited until after Saturday, the deadline for Obamacare enrollment this year. Instead, the night before the deadline, he torpedoed the entire Affordable Care Act in one of the most sweeping, invasive, and unnecessary rulings in recent memory. Now, access to healthcare for millions of Americans is in jeopardy.
Thanks, Republicans. Great job.
In his ruling, the judge noted that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate was “unconstitutional,” and therefore the remaining provisions of the healthcare law are “inseverable” and “invalid.” Without the individual mandate, which Republicans repealed late last year, the entire law must go, according to O’Connor’s logic.
All of this is part of the Republicans’ obsessive plan to tear down Obamacare without any semblance of a plan to replace it.
Just five days before Christmas last year, Republicans stuck a repeal of the individual mandate into their overnight tax reform package benefitting the über-wealthy, knowing that the individual mandate was a centerpiece to making the legislation work properly.
The next month, 20 state attorneys general and a governor, led by Texas, filed a lawsuit arguing that because Republicans had killed the individual mandate, the entire law should be thrown out. Following along with this partisan script to deny healthcare coverage to millions, O’Connor agreed.
President Donald Trump immediately took to Twitter to brag (twice). “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 tweeted.
One tweet wasn’t enough, so he posted another. “Wow, but not surprisingly, ObamaCare was just ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL by a highly respected judge in Texas. Great news for America!” he wrote.
Yet his own White House was quick to clarify that there’s no way Democrats and others will let this stand without taking the fight to the Supreme Court, if necessary.
“We expect this ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court. Pending the appeal process, the law remains in place,” the White House said in a statement.
Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Republicans and the judge of trying to “subvert the will” of voters.
“The GOP Congress tried and failed to destroy the Affordable Care Act and protections for pre-existing conditions. Then, in the midterm election, the American people delivered a record-breaking margin of almost 10 million votes against House Republicans’ vile assault on health care,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Now, the district court ruling in Republicans’ lawsuit seeks to subvert the will of the American people and sow chaos in the final day of HealthCare.gov open enrollment.”
She added that, “Republicans are fully responsible for this cruel decision…”
According to The Washington Post, Democrats led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra will first challenge the ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.
Becerra called the ruling “an assault on 133 million Americans with preexisting conditions, on the 20 million Americans who rely on the ACA’s consumer protections for health care, and on America’s faithful progress toward affordable health care for all Americans,” Bloomberg reported.
The Post added that most big players in the healthcare industry also are criticizing the ruling. The president of the Federation of American Hospitals, Chip Kahn, said, “The judge got it wrong.” Barbara McAneny, president of the American Medical Association, called the ruling “an unfortunate step backward for our health system.” And America’s Health Insurance Plans said it was “misguided and wrong.”
Pelosi said that in January, when Democrats take control of the House, they would “move swiftly to formally intervene in the appeals process to uphold the life-saving protections for people with pre-existing conditions and reject Republicans’ effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act,” the newspaper added.
O’Connor was appointed by President George W. Bush.