A federal appeals court in New Orleans ruled on Wednesday that the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA), individual mandate clause is unconstitutional.
The court overruled the circuit’s decision upholding the law’s requirement that all Americans purchase insurance. Other parts of the entire law have been sent back to a trial judge to determine whether the whole law can can be sustained.
The ruling side-stepped what happens in central aspects of the Affordable Care Act, like the ability for people aged under 26 to remain on their parent’s insurance plan, protections of those with pre-existing conditions and the Medicaid expansion.
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The three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans panel agreed with Texas judge Reed O’Connor. The law’s insurance requirement – or the individual mandate – became unconstitutional in 2017 when Congress reduced taxes on people without insurance to zero. The 2-1 vote found that Congress properly eliminated the original law’s key financing mechanism, commonly referred to as the individual mandate – a clause requiring the majority of Americans to buy health insurance or face strict tax penalties, making the entire law unenforcable.
“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.”
The appeals court delegated the severability decision – whether or not the whole law must be struck down – to the lower court.