US court to decide future of Obamacare

US court to decide future of Obamacare

Texas leaders argue against Obamacare, saying the entire law is now unconstitutional since the "individual mandate" - which is the so-called "tax" that the Supreme Court had once upheld - is now gone.

A three-judge panel of the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Louisiana, including two judges appointed by Republican presidents and one by a Democrat, will take up a ruling by a federal judge in Texas past year that said the entire ACA was unconstitutional.

The ultimate outcome of Tuesday's case will affect protections for people with pre-existing conditions, Medicaid expansions covering roughly 12 million people, and subsidies that help about 10 million others afford health insurance. Because the case is before one of the most conservative appellate courts in the country, it is nearly guaranteed to wind up in the Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is set to hear oral arguments in the case of Texas v. Azar, a suit spearheaded previous year by 20 Republican-leaning attorneys general (led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton) and endorsed by President Trump.

Two Republican appointees on the three-judge panel, Kurt Engelhardt and Jennifer Walker Elrod, asked tough questions of Democrats defending the health law in a case that hinges on Congress' 2017 decision to zero out the "individual mandate" tax for shirking insurance.

The hearing marked the latest development in a 2018 lawsuit by 18 Republican-leaning states claiming that the absence of a tax converts the law into an unconstitutional directive to US citizens to buy a product.

"Together, the Trump administration and the Texas-led coalition risk the health of almost every American, from the young to the elderly, the sick to the gainfully employed", Becerra said.

A coalition of Democratic state attorneys general led by California's Xavier Becerra stepped up to defend the signature achievement of Trump's Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama.

Among the arguments by the law's supporters: Those who filed suit have no case because they aren't harmed by a penalty that doesn't exist; the reduction of the tax penalty to zero could be read as a suspension of the tax, but the tax's legal structure still exists; and if the individual mandate is now unconstitutional, that does not affect the rest of the law.

He noted the GOP-led Senate wasn't before the court, even as House Democrats dispatched a lawyer to argue in defense of the law.

A coalition of Republican-led states headed by Texas sued, alleging the tax penalty's elimination rendered Obamacare unconstitutional.

O'Connor's ruling is on hold, pending appeals.

If the challenge is upheld, it threatens to wipe away coverage for millions of Americans, as well as the law's protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

A third judge - Carolyn Dineen King, appointed by President Jimmy Carter -did not ask any questions.

The fate of the Affordable Care Act is in the spotlight once again as a federal appellate court hears oral arguments in a lawsuit backed by President Donald Trump's administration that seeks to overturn the 9-year health care law.

Democrats in the U.S. Senate said Monday that Republicans will pay a political price if the case results in the loss of the popular health care law. The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee launched attack ads, accusing vulnerable Republicans of not working hard enough to protect patients with preexisting medical conditions. For example, the law established a new federal office to support experiments by physicians and hospitals to improve quality and lower healthcare costs.

"President Trump and Republicans are playing a very unsafe game with people's lives", Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters on a conference call Monday.



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