A few weeks back, on December 14th, 2018, a Texas judge ruled the ACA as “unconstitutional”.
This proclamation set many Americans into hysteria being that the deadline to enroll for coverage was on December 15th, 2018. The ruling established by Judge Reed O’Connor was based upon two prior court rulings and a change to the Affordable Care Act in late 2017.
Late last year, a change to the framework of the ACA was administered. It was decided that there would no longer be a penalty for those who were uninsured. Prior to this change, a penalty of $695 per adult or a family maximum of $2,085 would be issued to any United States citizen that was not covered by insurance. The ACA also stated that insurance would be more affordable (which has been a debatable matter), those under 26 years of age could still be covered under their parent’s insurance, Medicaid would be made available to all those who qualify and there could be no pre-existing conditions for insurance.
The ACA had gone to court, as previously stated, twice before. Once was in 2012 and the other in 2015. In both cases, the ACA (previously known as Obamacare) upheld the law as constitutional. The most important of these cases to consider is the 2012 Supreme Court Case; National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) v. Sebelius. In this case, the question of constitutionalism was raised. Two aspects of the ACA were reviewed in order to conclusion: the individual mandate and the expansion of Medicaid.
While it was ruled that the expansion of Medicaid was unconstitutional due to lack of time for states to consent to change, it was constitutional for the individual mandate for the reason of Congress’s taxation power. This outcome led to slight change within Medicaid expansion allowing expansion to be optional for states and continuing to uphold the ACA law.
With the penalty tax being removed from the law, it changes the verdict from that 2012 case. A Texas Attorney General accompanied with eighteen state attorneys general and governor created a lawsuit against the ACA arguing that removing the penalty makes the entire law unconstitutional, in which Judge O’Connor agreed.
It has been made clear that the president as well as both sides of the Supreme Court have always had intention to keep some aspects of the ACA in place such as affordable care and eliminating the pre-existing conditions in insurance policies. The ruling will be going to a higher ground, either the 5th Circuit of Appeals or bypassing that entirely and going straight to Supreme Court. In either scenario, the hearing will not be until late 2019 or early 2020.
In the meantime, Americans should be at ease regarding the ACA for now. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed the law will stay in place until the appeal process is complete. In other words, for now, there will be no impact to current coverage or 2019 coverage; but the future for the ACA is certainly unclear.