It seems that ObamaCare is in serious trouble.
20 Republican attorney generals are going against 17 Democrat attorney generals in a case that is trying to determine the constitutionality of the individual mandate and unfortunately for the supporters of ObamaCare, the Republicans managed to win the first round. In round two, Democrats are appealing the ruling and everyone is waiting on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to make an appropriate decision.
This case may easily result in ObamaCare being thrown out entirely but, given the battle between the two parties and the fact that they will have to wait for the Supreme Court to rule (after it gets the case), we’ll likely see the issue settled in June 2019.
The mot important question regarding the case is: Does Congress have the authority to mandate the individuals purchase health insurance? SCOTUS has already weighed in on that question and not in favor of the Democrats.
“O’Connor ruled that under the logic of the landmark 2012 Supreme Court ruling that upheld the law, the individual mandate, which required that most Americans obtain health insurance or pay a tax, is now unconstitutional.”
“In the 2012 ruling, a majority of the justices concluded that the individual mandate unconstitutionally imposed a requirement that Americans buy insurance. However, a different majority held the mandate amounted to a constitutional tax penalty.”
“On Friday, O’Connor ruled that after Trump signed a $1.5 trillion tax bill passed by Congress last year that eliminated the penalties, the individual mandate could no longer be considered constitutional.”
“He said because the individual mandate was an “essential” part of Obamacare, the entire law, rather than just the individual mandate, was unconstitutional.”
Although, chief Justice John Roberts decided to join the four liberal Justices and save the law that did not stop him from finding the individual mandate unconstitutional. Roberts found middle ground and kept the law in place by calling the penalty for not buying health insurance a “tax” and not a fine. This means that the Congress made a decision to impose a tax while giving citizens a way to exempt from that tax which can be done by purchasing health insurance.
Prior to Roberts’ decision, Obama Administration officials ran around telling everyone that it’s a fine rather than a tax for a simple reason – it played better politically. But once Chief Justice Roberts made a decision to rescue ObamaCare, they had no problem calling it a tax.
The 20 Republicans now argue that since the individual mandate has been annulled as part of the 2017 tax reform law, there is no reason to uphold a tax. All there is left is a mandate and the Supreme Court majority ruled in 2012 that it is unconstitutional.
Taking into consideration that the law’s authors regarded the individual mandate central to the law’s functionality, the given law needs to be struck down.
Now, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals may rule as it pleases but, the case will still end up at the Supreme Court and once against, Chief Justice Roberts will be the deciding vote.
Chief Justice Roberts can choose to agree with the Republican state AGs and do the reasonable thing- declare the individual mandate unconstitutional and join the rest of the conservatives that want to take the law down.
This, however, doesn’t mean that Chief Justice Roberts will have to strike it down just because of his previous ruling. He could deem the mandate already gone as Congress, by eliminating the penalty, has left the law meaningless. Furthermore, he could rule that there is no individual mandate but ,given that the law continues to function, it does not mean that there is need to strike it down.
The justice could rule to leave it to Congress to ultimately decide as Congress can reinstate the tax he once ruled legal, thus allowing people to become exempt from the tax if they choose to purchase health insurance. Another path he could choose is to allow the law to stand without the individual mandate.
The reality is that Roberts hesitated to throw out the ObamaCare in 2012 as he clearly stated that in his opinion, it’s not the Court’s job to rescue citizens from the decisions made by the same people they voted for.
The so-far Republican-controlled Congress had an opportunity to repeal ObamaCare but, failed to do so. Roberts may as well be thinking: Why would the court get rid of a law that the political process wasn’t prepared to throw out?
Nevertheless, given that Judge O’Connor ruled it unconstitutional, Chief Justice Roberts had already said the individual mandate is unconstitutional, and a Congress act doesn’t allow Roberts to use the same mechanism to save it yet again, it’s unlikely that he will succeed to keep it in place now.