In a 2-1 decision, a panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is unconstitutional, while remanding the case back to a federal district court judge in Texas to decide whether the remaining portions of the ACA can stand. While no one’s health care is impacted now or in the immediate future, the ruling is sure to fuel uncertainly in the private insurance marketplace. And depending on what happens on remand, it could affect other provisions of the ACA that, among other things, expand Medicaid coverage to low-income adults and former foster youth, ensure workplace accommodations for breastfeeding mothers, and enshrine protections against discrimination in health care settings.
The opinion could affect the lives of millions of people, and it rests on dubious grounds legally. National Health Law Program Legal Director Jane Perkins blasted the legal basis of the decision.
“Today’s ruling is deeply flawed from beginning to end. This case should never have gotten off the ground because those who filed it are not being harmed, and harm is a precondition to the court hearing the case. The notion that someone can be harmed by a law that Congress has decided not to enforce is not one that courts have accepted. And by contrast, millions of people are sure to be harmed by the uncertainty that this decision is sure to generate.”
Executive Director Elizabeth G. Taylor noted that the ruling fits a larger attack on the ACA and cautioned advocates to continue the fight.
“Since taking office, President Trump and his administration have tirelessly plotted to destroy the Affordable Care Act. Through failed legislative attempts and countless examples of administrative action intended to sabotage the ACA, the administration has chipped away at the health care law that provides access to care for millions of individuals and families. This ruling, however, is the most grave threat yet to the ACA. While we are glad that the panel did not find the entire law unconstitutional, the threat to health care remains imminent. The National Health Law Program and our partners will continue to fight in every forum – administrative, judicial and legislative – to ensure that access to health care is available to all, regardless of income and without discrimination. The ACA was an important step in that direction. We should not lose the progress we have made.
For additional comment from Perkins or Taylor, please contact acting Director of Communications, Andy DiAntonio, at [email protected] or 202.621.1023.