A federal judge in Texas on Friday ruled the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, was unconstitutional based on its mandate demanding that people buy health insurance, a decision in a case that could reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth agreed with a coalition of 20 states that a change in tax law last year removing a penalty for not having health insurance disproved the entire Obamacare law.
The coalition of states opposing the law was led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, who are both Republicans.
Republicans have challenged the 2010 law, the signature domestic policy achievement of Republican President, Donald Trump’s Democratic predecessor Barack Obama , since its inception and have repeatedly attempted and failed to repeal it.
O’Connor ruled that under the logic of the landmark 2012 Supreme Court ruling that maintained the law, the individual mandate, which required that most Americans obtain health insurance or pay a tax, is now unconstitutional.
In the 2012 ruling, a majority of the justices finalized that the individual mandate unlawfully forced a requirement that Americans buy insurance. However, a different majority held the mandate amounted to a constitutional tax penalty.
On Friday, O’Connor ruled that after Trump signed a $1.5 trillion tax bill issued by Congress last year that erased the penalties, the individual mandate could no longer be seen constitutional.
He said because the individual mandate was an “essential” part of Obamacare, the entire law, instead of just the individual mandate, was unconstitutional.
He wrote “In some ways, the question before the Court involves the intent of both the 2010 and 2017 Congresses, “The former enacted the ACA. The latter sawed off the last leg it stood on.”
O’Connor’s decision was passed the day before the end of a 45-day sign-up period for 2019 health coverage under the law.
About 11.8 million consumers nationwide enlisted in 2018 Obamacare exchange plans, according to the U.S. government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Xavier Becerra, spokeswoman for California Attorney General, who was among a group of Democratic attorneys general defending the law, note they would appeal the decision. An appeal would go to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Sarah Sanders, White House spokeswoman in a statement said the law would stay in place pending its expected appeal to the Supreme Court.
Trump praised the ruling and called on Congress to act “Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions,” Trump said in a tweet.
Chuck Schumer, U.S. Senate Democratic leader said he hoped the decision would be overturned.
Schumer said in a statement “If this awful ruling is upheld in the higher courts, it will be a disaster for tens of millions of American families, especially for people with pre-existing conditions,”
In June, the Justice Department partially took side with the Republican state attorneys general, agreeing that the individual mandate must be struck down as unconstitutional but arguing several other provisions could survive.