Appeals Court To Hear Obamacare Arguments

The John Minor Wisdom U.S. Court of Appeals building

A federal appeals court panel grilled Democratic attorneys general on Tuesday about whether Obamacare violates the U.S. Constitution, as it weighs whether to uphold a Texas judge's ruling striking down the landmark health care reform law.

A federal appeals court sympathized Tuesday with Republicans who say Obamacare's "individual mandate" to hold insurance is no longer constitutional, though signaled they're reluctant to decide which parts of the program should fall with it.

U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor in Fort Worth, Texas, agreed in December 2018, saying the individual mandate was unconstitutional because it no longer triggered a tax.

The case will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court, which would raise the stakes for both the law's future and its use as a political tool ahead of the 2020 election. If the appeals court upholds the ruling, 20 million people are at risk of losing insurance coverage and people with pre-existing would have their protections eliminated.

Republicans in Congress subsequently failed to overturn Obamacare, but in December 2017, Trump signed into law a tax bill passed by a Republican-led Congress that reduced the tax penalty to zero dollars.

Asked about the court case, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised lawmakers would uphold protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions if the health law is struck down. And he pointedly suggested that the courts shouldn't have to work out what parts of the law should or shouldn't survive.

"There's a political solution here that you and various parties are asking us to roll up our sleeves and get involved in", Engelhardt said. Engelhardt questioned whether the judiciary should be "taxidermist for every legislative big-game accomplishment that Congress achieves". "Congress can fix this".

The judges focused on whether Obamacare lost its legal justification after Trump in 2017 signed a law that eliminated a tax penalty used to enforce the law's mandate that all Americans buy health insurance.

"Does the "shall" matter even if you're given positive incentives?" she asked.

The ultimate outcome of the lawsuit will affect millions of Americans, and the repeal of the nine-year-old law could leave up to 32 million people without health insurance by 2026, according to a Congressional Budget Office report from 2017 about the effects of repealing the ACA.

"Congress can fix this", he said at one point. "That is the beginning and the end of the severability argument".

"The courts then said this was a reasonable way to let the judicial branch have the final say", Flentje said.

The case's outsize significance was evident from the television crews outside the marbled courthouse in downtown New Orleans and the lines standing in the heat, hoping for a seat in the courtroom, as well as from the broadsides issued from Washington in the hours before the hearing.

"I think the takeaway from today is that for the side I represent...today's arguments seem to have gone very, very well", he said. With the help and peace of mind that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides for people with preexisting conditions, Mari has been able to live a normal life and her parents, Gabe and Leslie, have not had to worry about their daughter's health care coverage.

With Justice Department officials sidestepping the role of defending an existing federal statute, a coalition of Democratic state attorneys general, led by Becerra, moved into that position.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn accused Democrats of "perpetuating this lie that we're not for covering preexisting conditions" and said Republicans should counter those assertions. The Trump administration had previously announced it would continue to administer the ACA until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the case. "And if that were, under any of these scenarios, to go away, we would act quickly on a bipartisan basis to restore it".

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