Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor ruled that Obamacare’s individual mandate is unconstitutional, and therefore the entire law is invalid. This set off panic among health care advocates and those who rely on the Affordable Care Act for health coverage. The decision was immediately challenged by 17 attorneys general, including California’s Xavier Becerra.
O’Connor’s reasoning for his decision hinged on a 2012 Supreme Court case.
O’Connor’s ruling states that the Supreme Court in 2012 upheld the mandate to have coverage because of Congress’s power to tax, but the fine for failing to comply with the mandate was removed by Congress last year. He argues that means the mandate is no longer a tax and therefore is unconstitutional.
This is, as various legal experts have noted, patently insane reasoning to strike down the whole law. As University of Michigan law professor Nicholas Bagley wrote for the Washington Post earlier this month, the “logic of the ruling is as difficult to follow as it is to defend,” and “makes zero sense.”
President Trump gloated repeatedly about the decision. “As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster!” he tweeted.
Now, a lifeline has been thrown to the Affordable Care Act while it awaits the next step in the process: O’Connor, a Bush appointee, released an order on Sunday night saying that the law will remain in effect while it travels through the appeals process, according to The Hill.
Prior to O’Connor’s Sunday night ruling, it was initially unclear whether the ACA would still be valid when the individual mandate was removed on January 1, 2019. In response, the state attorneys general who pushed the case into appeals asked that the judge issue an order that the law be upheld during that process.
O’Connor wrote in his order that if the ACA were not upheld during the appeals process, “many everyday Americans would... face great uncertainty during the pendency of appeal.”
True! Maybe he should have thought of that before making a ruling imperiling the healthcare of millions of people. Just a thought.