Since the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as ‘Obamacare,’ was first passed into law without a single republican vote, there have been legal challenges and attempts to repeal all or part of the law. Even while Barack Obama was the president, the republicans continued to vote to repeal the law, even though he would have likely vetoed any attempt to do so.
The newest threat to the legal standing of the law doesn’t come from the United States legislature, however, but from the state of Texas. The suit that they brought against the federal government concerning Obamacare could, perhaps, give a federal judge cause to strip the law of key provisions or undermine it in its entirety.
Many people think that the way the judge is handling the case could be signaling the end of the ‘unconstitutional’ Obamacare law that has stood for years and raised prices for health insurance.
At a hearing yesterday, he did a few things that signal trouble in the future for the embattled health care law.
He did reject the request from a number of republican states to suspend the act, but he also showed, by the questions he asked and the concepts he expounded on, that in the case of Texas v. Azar, he was not unwilling to strip away parts of the law, or even possibly to strike it down.
The cornerstone of the lawsuit comes from the tax bill passed last year by the Donald Trump administration.
Among the more exciting portions of that bill, including a new and lowered corporate tax rate for the United States (at least at the federal level), it stripped away the individual mandate.
That mandate required that everyone in the United States had to have insurance, or else they would have to pay a fine/tax to the federal government.
O’Connor, in the hearing yesterday, repeatedly returned to arguments that the architects of the much-maligned bill were forced to make.
These advocates for the individual mandate, and the ACA in general, argued that having insurance in the first place was crucial to the ‘consumer protections’ in the law.
Indeed, the Obama administration and its various allies argued that the individual mandate, now stripped from the law, and the protections for those with ‘pre-existing conditions’ were legs of the same conceptual stool.
However, now that republicans have stripped that ‘leg’ from the metaphorical ‘stool,’ democrats seem happy to argue that if the legislature wants to make an imperfect and unstable stool, that is their right.
Modern Healthcare’s Susannah Luthi suggested that the judge gave only cursory consideration to the question of whether or not the law was constitutional in the absence of the individual mandate.
Instead, she suggested that he skipped ahead to questions about how much more of the law should be stripped away.
Is the removal of the mandate enough to open the famous 2012 court case National Federation of Businesses v. Sebelius?
Was that what republicans had in mind all along?
The judge also signaled that he will be ready to render his decision on the case in the near future.
It is likely that no matter what verdict he renders, someone is likely to appeal the O’Connor verdict.
It also is conceivable that before all is said and done, the case could very well end up in front of the United States Supreme Court once again, albeit this time a court that does not have ‘swing vote’ justice Anthony Kennedy.
Some suggest that leftists in Texas and 19 other republican-leaning states that joined in this lawsuit, including Wisconsin, might use the lawsuit against the republicans.
However, Obamacare was generally unpopular, and has been since it first began operation, and it’s not likely that people would complain about something, anything that could help lower insurance premiums, which have grown by leaps and bounds since the ACA took hold.
It will be interesting to see what O’Connor decides, but no matter what, it is not likely that the fight over getting rid of Obamacare will end in a U.S. District Court in Texas.