Health Care

U.S. appeals court signals sympathy to bid to strike down Obamacare

U.S. appeals court signals sympathy to bid to strike down Obamacare”

A three-judge panel on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals suggested during a Tuesday hearing it might uphold at least part of a lower court ruling to strike down the 2010 health care law.

The third judge, Carolyn King, a Jimmy Carter appointee, didn't utter a word during a 90-minute hearing that's supposed to help the court decide whether President Barack Obama's signature health-care law, the Affordable Care Act, lives or dies.

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 USA citizens to buy a product.

In challenging the law anew, "Obamacare" opponents cited the U.S. Supreme Court's 2012 ruling upholding the legislation. The Trump administration had previously announced it would continue to administer the ACA until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the case.

With no tax penalty now in effect, the Texas lawsuit argues, the individual mandate is unconstitutional and the entire law must fall without it. O'Connor, the federal judge in Texas, agreed in a December ruling.

The Trump administration supported O'Connor's ruling, while a separate coalition of states led by California's Democratic attorney general, Xavier Becerra, and the House general counsel defended the law. The Justice Department took the position that the individual mandate was unconstitutional and therefore the guaranteed issue and community-rating provisions, which it said relied on the individual mandate, were inseverable.

"It seems like the language used is pretty heavy when it comes to those provisions being interlocking or intertwining", he said. He indicated the panel may hesitate to eradicate the entire law.

Douglas Letter, general counsel for the House, replied to the judge, "You can not and should not draw any meaning from the fact Congress has not done any additional legislating" on the ACA. "Why does Congress want the Article III Judiciary to become the taxidermist for every legislative big game accomplishment that Congress achieves? Congress can fix this". "Stripped of its tax status, the individual mandate is nothing more than an unconstitutional congressional mandate to purchase health insurance".

"How do we know that some members of Congress didn't say, 'Aha! This is the silver bullet that's going to undo the ACA?'" she asked. The rest of the law should stay, the Justice Department argued. "The best evidence is the text itself", he said. "That is the beginning and the end of the severability argument". But in March, the Justice Department reversed course.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey joined Democrats at state and federal levels this week in calling on Republican lawmakers to take a stance on the lawsuit and its potential ramifications.

Also watch: What if we switch to a single-payer health care system?

Texas Solicitor General Kyle Hawkins warned the judges that "congressional intent is not monolithic, and it's a very hard and unsafe game" to try to second-guess what Congress really meant.

"Our argument is simple", Becerra said in a written statement released Friday.

Democrats criticized administration officials, using arguments that may be made on the campaign trail. First, such a decision would immediately affect the estimated 20 million people who get their health coverage through programs created under the law.

"These are faces of Americans, millions who will suffer if Republicans succeed in dismantling health care law", Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said during a press conference Tuesday alongside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calf. But in 2017, the Republican-led Congress zeroed out the penalty, effectively making it a blanket government order.

Democrats have warned that nullifying the ACA would impact coverage for millions of individuals with preexisting conditions.

For almost two hours in a New Orleans courtroom, the judges - two Republican appointees and one by Democratic President Jimmy Carter - voiced skepticism about arguments that the individual mandate is now essentially just a toothless government suggestion. "And if that were, under any of these scenarios, to go away, we would act quickly on a bipartisan basis to restore it".

"There's nobody in the Senate not in favor of covering preexisting conditions, nobody", the Kentucky Republican said.

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