Court Ruling on Affordable Care Act Released

UPDATE #2: It ain’t over until it’s over, and it may never be over.


UPDATE: University of Michigan law professor Nicholas Bagley tries to sort out the news:



We finally have a ruling from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Well, part of a ruling, anyway.

As CNBC explains:

A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate provision was unconstitutional but punted on deciding whether the rest of the landmark health-care law should be tossed out.

The court is ordering a lower court judge to reconsider whether ACA, more commonly known as Obamacare, should remain intact.

“The individual mandate is unconstitutional because it can no longer be read as a tax, and there is no other constitutional provision that justifies this exercise of congressional power,” the ruling stated. “On the severability question, we remand to the district court to provide additional analysis of the provisions of the ACA as they currently exist.”

Texas and other Republican-led states brought the suit, which was defended by Democratic-led states and the House of Representatives. The court heard arguments in July.

The suit alleged that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate was unlawful under the federal government’s taxing powers after Congress reduced the penalty for not having insurance to $0 in 2017. Texas argued that therefore the ACA, more commonly known as Obamacare, must be scrapped.

We’re still waiting for more analysis on this mixed bag of a ruling, but at first glance it seems accurate to call the decision a “punt” by the 5th circuit. This certainly isn’t a positive decision for supporters of the ACA, but it’s far from the catastrophic ruling that some had feared; there was plenty of speculation that the ACA could be ruled unconstitutional altogether.

Today’s ruling likely means that a Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the ACA won’t arrive before the 2020 election. In the meantime, you’ll have to busy yourself with Googling the definition of “severability.”


9 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. harrydobyharrydoby says:

    Ok, I'm not an attorney, but even if the "tax" is $0, it is still in the law, and thus a tax nevertheless.  The amount of the tax should not be the deciding issue.

  2. PseudonymousPseudonymous says:

    President Trump is backing the lawsuit to throw out the ACA, which is now unlikely to be decided by November 2020. So this election may once again be a referendum on the future of the ACA.

    If this is true, it might be beneficial for Democrats to talk about what would be lost with the ACA for folks who have nothing to do with the exchanges or Medicaid.  The privately-insured benefit from a number of significant features of the ACA that affect all insurance plans.

    If they're not proudly supporting Medicare for All, which is better, of course.

  3. MADCO says:

    There is no individual mandate anymore.
    The Trump/Republican tax cuts and destabilization of America act of Dec 2017 removed the mandate starting this year.

  4. Genghis says:

    Severability is a tough pull given the fact that the government vigorously argued in multiple courts back in 2010-12 that the ACA is basically useless without the individual mandate. The wingnut dipshit trial court judge who decided this case originally will rule once again that the death of the individual mandate kills the entire ACA, then the appeal process will begin anew.

    • harrydobyharrydoby says:

      Perhaps in 2021 with a Democratic president, and a couple more Democratic senators.  Just enough to make the public understand, universal heathcare isn't a benefit, but a necessity.

    • MADCO says:


      For plan years through 2018, if you can afford health insurance but choose not to buy it, you may pay a fee called the individual Shared Responsibility Payment when you file your federal taxes. (The fee is sometimes called the "penalty," "fine," or "individual mandate.")

      Starting with the 2019 plan year (for which you’ll file taxes in April 2020), the Shared Responsibility Payment no longer applies."

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