Published: Wed, July 10, 2019
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Latest 'Obamacare' Court Battle Plays out in New Orleans

Latest 'Obamacare' Court Battle Plays out in New Orleans

The future of the United States's Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, could be at stake on Tuesday when a group of Democratic-led states and the House of Representatives urge a federal appeals court to overturn a Texas judge's ruling that the U.S. healthcare reform law is unconstitutional.

During oral arguments in a case with momentous stakes for consumers and politicians ahead of the 2020 elections, two members of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit grilled lawyers representing Democratic-led states and the U.S. House to explain why the Affordable Care Act remains valid.

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 even if the individual mandate is now unconstitutional, that does not affect the rest of the law known as the Affordable Care Act. But ending the ACA would also create chaos in other parts of the health care system that were directly or indirectly changed under the law's multitude of provisions - including calorie counts on menus, a pathway for approval of generic copies of expensive biologic drugs and, perhaps most important politically, protections for people who have preexisting conditions.

"My thoughts are primarily with the hundreds of thousands of Nevadans who have health insurance thanks to the ACA and have access to things like no co-pay birth control", Roberson said. "Republicans tried to come up with a replacement plan for 10 years, and they couldn't do it", he says.

"If you no longer have a tax, why isn't it unconstitutional?" Protections for people with pre-existing conditions like cancer and diabetes.

A hearing in the health care case - Texas vs. US - is scheduled for Tuesday.

But the 5th Circuit threw a new twist into the saga in late June, questioning whether the Democratic coalition and House of Representatives have the legal standing to bring the appeal.

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"Our argument is simple", Becerra said in a statement. Democrats had favored the penalty as a way to induce more people to purchase health insurance, with the goal of reaching near-universal coverage.

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. The Justice Department would normally defend a federal law, but Trump's administration has declined to do so in a challenge by 18 Republican-led states. The high court has previously reviewed the law, and its coverage and insurance protections for millions of Americans. That pool, an expensive option for sick patients that was phased out under Obamacare, only insured about 28,000 people at its peak, experts said - a tiny fraction of the Texans poised to lose coverage if Obamacare is struck down.

Justice Department attorney August Flentje, facing questions about the administration's approach, said the government would enforce it until a final decision comes.

Now, 20 Republican attorneys general around the country believe they have a case to have the law ruled unconstitutional.

She signed up for a plan available to the self-employed on the federal health exchange - with better benefits at lower out-of-pocket costs - as soon as it became available following the 2010 passage of the ACA law under the Obama administration.

"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.

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