Individual Mandate Unconstitutional, Rest of Obamacare in Hands of Texas District Judge

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled unconstitutional the individual mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare), but left the fate of its other provisions in the hands of a Texas judge, who in December 2018 ruled the entire law unconstitutional.

judge-ree-o'connor

Judge Reed O’Connor

“The most straightforward reading applies: the mandate is a command. Using that meaning, the individual mandate is unconstitutional,” today’s ruling states.

In 2012 when the Supreme Court ruled on the issue, “the individual mandate — most naturally read as a command to purchase insurance — was saved from unconstitutionality because it could be read together with the shared responsibility payment as an option to purchase insurance or pay a tax,” Wednesday’s opinion adds.

In ducking the remainder of the law’s fate, the justices — who heard appeals on July 9 — avoided throwing a repealed health care law into the midst of the ongoing presidential electioneering and thus put the heat on a sole judge, Reed O’Connor of Ft. Worth. The tactic also might delay appeals to the Supreme Court until its next session in October 2020.

Attorney General William Barr urged the justices before its July hearing to rule the law unconstitutional in the 12 red states that initiated the lawsuit. That lawsuit argued that, once Congress removed the cash penalty from the individual mandate, the entire ACA lost its legal justification — an argument Judge O’Connor bought in whole.

“We look forward to the opportunity to further demonstrate that Congress made the individual mandate the centerpiece of Obamacare and the rest of the law cannot stand without it,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who initiated the suit, said in a statement.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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