Affordable Care Act health insurance mandate struck down in federal appeals court

Health Insurance Mandate - Court building - law

Judges have sent back the case to decide if other components of Obamacare can remain without it.

Last week, a federal appeals court struck down the health insurance mandate component of the Affordable Care Act. This ruling involved the portion of Obamacare that made it a requirement for Americans to purchase coverage, calling it unconstitutional.

That said, the remainder of the ACA has not been invalidated, but has instead been sent back.

The appeals panel did not rule on the remainder of the Affordable Care Act beyond the health insurance mandate. Instead, the judges chose to send it back to a federal district judge. The purpose of that move was to allow the judge to “conduct a more searching inquiry” into which components of Obamacare could remain standing without that requirement for coverage.

The panel’s ruling against the individual mandate was 2-1. It was made in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans. This ruling has now shaken the future of the nearly ten year-old law at the same time that health care access has become a core topic of debate in the presidential race.

The decision regarding the health insurance mandate has received different responses along party lines.

Overall, Republicans appear to be relieved, as tossing the law altogether ahead of a presidential election year would have represented a “political nightmare,” said a recent New York Times piece. On the other hand, Democrats have voiced a number of statements underscoring the danger the law now faces.

This most recent court ruling has occurred nearly precisely one year after Federal District Court Judge Reed O’Connor from Fort Worth struck down the entire Affordable Care Act. At that time, Judge O’Connor called the individual mandate “the keystone” of Obamacare. As such, he said that it could not be extracted from the rest of the law and was essential for the health insurance market’s regulation.

As Judge O’Connor is currently on a lengthy appellate court assignment, it is not likely that this particular issue will achieve resolution before the conclusion of the presidential election in 2020. That said, Xavier Bacerra has expressed his intentions to challenge the appeals court decision on the health insurance mandate by petitioning the Supreme Court to accept this case. Becerra is the California attorney general who led 21 states that Health Insurance Mandate - Court building - lawparticipated in an intervention in the case and who argued for the preservation of the Affordable Care Act.

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