New Orleans: A US appeals court ruled that a component of the Obamacare healthcare law was unconstitutional on Wednesday. The court fell short of declaring the entirety of the landmark 2010 statute as unconstitutional.
The New Orleans-based 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on a 2-1 vote that the part of the law directing Americans to obtain health insurance — the so-called individual mandate — was unlawful.
The panel agreed with Texas-based Judge Reed O’Connor’s 2018 finding that the individual mandate was rendered unconstitutional when Congress, in 2017, reduced a tax on people without insurance to zero.
The fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), widely known as Obamacare as it was introduced by former US President Barack Obama, remains in limbo, as the court made no decision on the rest of the law. Obama’s key domestic piece of legislation was intended to widen access to healthcare.
“It may still be that none of the ACA is severable from the individual mandate, even after this inquiry is concluded,” Judge Jennifer Elrod of the panel said. “It may be that all of the ACA is severable from the individual mandate. It may also be that some of the ACA is severable from the individual mandate, and some is not.”
What happens now?
US President Donald Trump has said in a statement that the decision will not alter the current state of the US healthcare system.
“My administration continues to work to provide access to high-quality healthcare at a price you can afford, while strongly protecting those with pre-existing conditions,” Trump said in a statement.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is leading state efforts to defend the law, promised a quick appeal to the Supreme Court.
“For now, the President got the gift he wanted — uncertainty in the healthcare system and a pathway to repeal — so that the healthcare that seniors, workers and families secured under the Affordable Care Act can be yanked from under them,” said Becerra.
The other parts of the law will now be further reviewed. Trump previously claimed that Obamacare would be repealed under his presidency.
The court’s ruling means that the future of Obamacare will continue to be a major policy issue in the upcoming 2020 US election race.