A federal appeals court voided the individual mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday.
“The individual mandate is unconstitutional because it can no longer be read as a tax, and there is no other constitutional provision that justifies this exercise of congressional power,” the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling stated.
Much to the chagrin of conservatives, the court ruling on Wednesday did not strike down Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act and those enrolled in it will continue to receive coverage.
President Trump, Sen. John Cornyn from Texas, and the vast majority of the Republican Party has been trying to “repeal and replace” Obamacare for three years. They have been unsuccessful, even when the GOP controlled the entire federal government.
The panel of judges ruled on Wednesday that the case would be sent back to a lower court– a federal court presided by a Texas judge who struck down the ACA last year– to determine how much of the healthcare policy survives.
“Texas already ranks dead last in health care coverage and millions of more Texans stand to lose coverage because of this reckless lawsuit,” said Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa in a statement. “This is dead wrong. We should be fighting to protect and expand healthcare for all, not cutting off access for hundreds of millions of Americans.”
The Obamacare individual mandate required Americans to pay a fee if they were able to afford but did not have minimal health insurance coverage. In 2017, Congress reduced the mandate fee to zero, leading to the 2018 ruling by the Texas judge, upheld this week, that argued the mandate was unconstitutional since it was no longer a tax.
It’s likely the case will now be picked up by the Supreme Court, but some experts say the new ruling may affect the timeline for when that occurs, with the Supreme Court not expected to review the case until its next term in 2020.
If the entire law gets struck down, hundreds of thousands of Texans would lose insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions, like cancer or diabetes.