Bombshell ObamaCare Ruling Hinges on a Key Principle

And some think Texas judge Reed O'Connor overreached on 'severability'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 17, 2018 9:45 AM CST
An ObamaCare sign is displayed on the storefront of an insurance agency in Hialeah, Fla.   (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

(Newser) – A Texas judge delivered a bombshell ruling on ObamaCare Friday night, declaring that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. US District Court Judge Reed O'Connor ruled that the individual mandate—the penalty those who forgo insurance must pay—is unconstitutional. And because the individual mandate is so integral to the ACA, the entire ACA is unconstitutional as well, he declared. All of which has lawmakers in both parties, as well as millions of Americans who get their coverage from the ACA, wondering, "Now what?" Here's what we know, including a debate over the legal principle of "severability":

  • What's next: In terms of the immediate future, nothing changes, reports USA Today. Though much uncertainty is now in the mix, the ACA remains in place while this plays out in the courts—perhaps even at the Supreme Court, for the third time—and the process could take months, if not years. Those insured under the ACA, including those who just enrolled, remain covered.
  • The stakes: Here's how the Washington Post puts it: "The opinion, if upheld on appeal, would upend the health insurance industry, the way doctors and hospitals function, and the ability of millions of Americans to access treatments they need to combat serious diseases."
  • Core provisions: As the AP notes, key provisions of the ACA have become popular with Americans, including its protections for pre-existing conditions, expanded Medicaid for lower-income Americans, and the ability of parents to keep their kids covered through age 26. All of which makes the politics tricky for the GOP; the AP says the decision "has landed like a stink bomb among Republicans."

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