The Fifth Circuit Court ruled the behemoth healthcare law unconstitutional on the grounds that the individual mandate — the penalty (i.e. fine) which had been zeroed-out by the Tax Cuts and Job Act of 2017 — no longer serves as the tax it was construed as by Chief Justice John Roberts.
Roberts’ decision to redefine the mandate as a tax infamously upheld the law in the 2012 case NFIB v. Sebelius.
The effects of the Fifth Circuit Court’s ruling were delayed for appeal.
The added wrinkle to this case hinges on the “severability” of the mandate from the rest of the law. Plaintiffs argue that the mandate is a vital component of the law and is inseverable, while defendants believe that the mandate can stand or fall on its own without broader consequences for Obamacare.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court declined to expedite the legal challenge to this term — an effort pushed by a coalition of Democratic states led by California.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra reacted to the announcement, saying, “Our health is the most precious resource we have — we should all be working to improve healthcare, instead of ripping coverage away from those most in need. As Texas and the Trump Administration fight to disrupt our healthcare system and the coverage that millions of people rely upon, we look forward to making our case in defense of the ACA.”
The blue-state coalition is hoping to preserve all of Obamacare, but at the very least preserve the rest of the law should the mandate itself be struck down.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is leading the plaintiff coalition, declared, “Now that the individual mandate can no longer be preserved as a tax, the constitutionality of Obamacare must be determined. The Fifth Circuit correctly applied existing U.S. Supreme Court precedent when they ruled that the individual mandate itself was unconstitutional.”
“Without the individual mandate, the entire law becomes unsupportable. The federal government cannot order private citizens to purchase subpar insurance that they don’t want, and I look forward to finally settling the matter before the U.S. Supreme Court,” he concluded.
Texas is playing a special role in this case not only because of Paxton, but also because the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) is representing two individuals as part of the coalition — Neill Hurley and John Nantz.
Lead counsel for the plaintiffs and TPPF general counsel Rob Henneke stated, “The decision by the Supreme Court to review the challenge to Obamacare brings the case one step closer to finality and Americans one step closer to freedom from a failed and unconstitutional system.”
“Obamacare continues to injure millions of Americans like my clients who have lost access to their doctor, suffered from rationed care and had their insurance costs skyrocket,” he concluded.
It is Paxton and TPPF’s position that not only is the mandate unconstitutional due to the zeroing out of the “tax,” but that the entirety of the law is inseverable from the mandate.
The oral arguments are likely to be held this fall with the decision levied in the summer of 2021 after the 2020 elections.
This will be the first marquee Obamacare-related case that Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh will hear.
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Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.