Appeals Court Signals Sympathy to Bid to Strike Down Obamacare


A three-judge panel, two Republican-appointed and one Democrat-appointed, from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans, heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans will take up a Texas challenge to the ACA after a federal judge in Fort Worth ruled it unconstitutional previous year.

"The district court ruling that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and inseverable from the remainder of the ACA would wreak havoc on the entire health care system, destabilize health insurance coverage, and roll back federal health policy to 2009", AMA immediate Past-president Barbara L. McAneny, MD, said back in April.

But in a surprise move in March, the Justice Department said it now agrees with the December ruling that the entire Affordable Care Act should be struck down.

Republican opponents call the law an unwarranted intervention by government in health insurance markets, while supporters say striking it down would threaten the healthcare of 20 million people who have gained insurance since its enactment.

"We fully expect Texas v. USA will eventually be resolved in the United States Supreme Court, where the ACA's impermissible federal overreach will be exposed", the Utah Attorney General's Office statement read.

In 2012, a divided U.S. Supreme Court upheld most of its provisions, including the individual mandate, which requires people to obtain insurance or pay a penalty.

Affordability tax credits that reduce the cost of health care premiums for millions of Americans will no longer be available. They argue that the mandate remains constitutional and that the rest of the law, in any event, can stand without it. Called the Protect Act, it guarantees the availability of coverage for pre-existing conditions and prohibits insurers from charging people more for it.

Still, Texas' arguments were persuasive to O'Connor, a George W. Bush appointee to the federal bench who has handed Texas several high-profile legal wins in recent years.

"You are instructed to save everything [in the law] you can unless it's evident that Congress would not have meant that, would have preferred no statute", countered attorney Doug Letter, arguing on behalf of the Democrat-led U.S. House of Representatives. Legal scholars say procedural questions like that might determine the outcome of the case rather than the merits of each side's arguments. It also allowed young people up to age 26 to stay on their parents' insurance.

In the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), Congress set the common obligation installment at zero dollars as of January 1, 2019.

Around 400,000 are on Medicaid through the Medicaid expansion granted under the law.

"We should be thinking about what we need to do to improve the Affordable Care Act while celebrating what actually works, what we're seeing from the Trump administration is "let's just throw everything out and just trust us we're going to come up with something" and yet we have not seen any ideas from the Trump administration as to how they would replace the Affordable Care Act", Peters said.

Two hours before Tuesday's arguments were to get under way, about a dozen law students and lawyers had lined up outside the court on a steamy New Orleans summer day to make sure they had seats to view the arguments.

Predicting how a court will rule based on a hearing is hard, and no matter the result at the 5th Circuit, the losing party is nearly certain to appeal to the Supreme Court.

But other elements of the ACA have recently been protected in ME, she says. First, such a decision would immediately affect the estimated 20 million people who get their health coverage through programs created under the law.