Trump Hails Judge's Ruling Against Obamacare

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In a 55-page opinion, US District Judge Reed O'Connor ruled on yesterday that last year's tax cut bill knocked the constitutional foundation from under "Obamacare" by eliminating a penalty for not having coverage.

"As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster!" he said. Democratic California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has promised to appeal the decision, and both sides expect the legal controversy to eventually find its way to the Supreme Court.

The Affordable Care Act runs for more than 1,000 pages and includes many provisions - the exchanges for individuals that are frequently political footballs - and a long list of other measures and protections created to expand insurance coverage.

Timothy Jost, a health law expert and emeritus professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law in Virginia, said it was "silly" and "irresponsible" for O'Connor to find that the individual mandate could not be separated from the rest of the ACA.

His decision is nearly certain to be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.

Most likely, the (for some) nightmare before Christmas case will not have immediate effect and will be appealed to the Supreme Court, making it the third case challenging the constitutionality of the ACA to reach the Supreme Court. If the entire health law is invalidated, popular provisions that benefit Medicare beneficiaries and people with employer coverage would also be scrapped. The law also protects people with pre-existing conditions and allows people up to age 26 to be covered under their parents' insurance; requires calorie counts at restaurants and gives protections to lactating mothers.

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The ruling came on the eve of the deadline for Americans to sign up for coverage in the federal insurance exchange created under the law.

However, incoming Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasted the ruling as "cruel" and "absurd" and said it would be repealed.

Pelosi said the House "will move swiftly to formally intervene in the appeals process to uphold the life-saving protections for people with pre-existing conditions and reject Republicans' effort to destroy" the law.

This, he based on Congress' own words about the individual mandate: "The requirement is an essential part of this larger regulation of economic activity, and the absence of the requirement would undercut Federal regulation of the health insurance market".

Since then public opinion on the ACA has shifted from mostly negative to generally favorable.

In the 2018 election, Democrats across the country highlighted the GOP's attempts to do away with Obamacare's consumer protections, and it paid dividends as the party won 40 House seats.

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Trump offered no details on the potential for healthcare talks with the Democrats, who are poised to take majority control of the US House of Representatives in early January.

Republicans have opposed the 2010 law - the signature domestic policy achievement of Republican President Donald Trump's Democratic predecessor Barack Obama - since its inception and have repeatedly tried and failed to repeal it.

"If this very bad 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", Schumer said in a statement. It's unclear what form that would take, or if the Republican-majority Senate would go along and Trump would sign it.

On Friday, O'Connor ruled that after Trump signed a $1.5 trillion tax bill passed by Congress a year ago, the individual mandate requiring that most Americans obtain health insurance or pay a tax could no longer be considered constitutional.

That view is an even more expansive dismissal of the law than the Trump administration's position in court. That includes a prohibition on insurers writing policies that exclude a particular condition - for example, a recurrence of breast cancer.

As a result of the ruling, the outlook for American health care is bright, Henneke said. The federal site for insurance, Healthcare.gov, is running a banner that reads, "Court's decision does not affect 2019 enrollment coverage".

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