Amid all the impeachment hilarity that’s taken place in recent days, one big story got missed. Obamacare’s individual mandate was officially ruled unconstitutional by the 5th Circuit of Appeals, setting up a fight over the entirety of the law, which could be completely nullified.
Here’s part of the opinion.
The Fifth Circuit ACA case is out. pic.twitter.com/3M146D3o91
— Raffi Melkonian (@RMFifthCircuit) December 18, 2019
The court found that the plaintiffs had proper standing to push this issue because they were required to by insurance, therefore having a claim of injury from the law. The states that also were part of the lawsuit were found to have standing because it cost them money to comply with Obamacare.
Then the big decision is made that the individual mandate is unconstitutional because without a penalty, it can no longer be considered a tax. You’ll recall that Chief Justice Roberts rescued Obamacare from the abyss by inventing to idea that the mandate was a tax, even as the Obama administration had pointedly proclaimed it wasn’t a tax for years. With the tax aspect out of the discussion, Congress has no constitutional power to force people to buy a product they don’t want.
Lastly, the court is sending this back down to the lower court to let them rule on whether the entire Affordable Care Act is now unconstitutional. There are arguments both ways, but I suspect they’ll take a piecemeal approach regardless of the legal aspects at play. The judiciary has a history of not overturning laws that could in turn do extensive harm to people. Like it or not, a lot of Americans use Obamacare to obtain health insurance now.
With this decision, and a possible more sweeping one coming, this could dropped in the laps of Congress in short order with an election nearing. No doubt, this is going to be a major issue. Despite the fact that they are the ones who screwed it up in the first place, Democrats will try to spin this as Trump’s problem. Ironically, not controlling the House right now could provide some cover on that front.
We’ll see how it all plays out after the impeachment fiasco is in the rear-view mirror.