The U.S. Fifth District Court of Appeals, based in Florida, has struck down the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
The law forced those without health insurance to purchase it. Many of those who purchase it receive federal tax breaks to help offset some of the cost. There are severe penalties in the law for those who don’t have health insurance. For many Americans, the law meant losing their doctors and paying huge premiums.
The three-judge panel did not address the rest of the Obamacare structure, but sent the rest of the law back Judge Reed O’Connor, the same Texas federal judge who one year ago declared Obamacare unconstitutional.
O’Connor has previously ruled that the rest of the law cannot stand on its own. The appeals court wants him to now to consider the question again.
O’Connor has a conservative record. In 2016, he struck down the Obama Administration’s guideline to allow transgender minors to use school bathrooms of their choice. In 2018, he agreed with a coalition that included 20 states that said Obamacare is unconstitutional.
Those states were Texas, Wisconsin, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia.
Alaska was noticeably absent from that lawsuit under former Gov. Bill Walker, even though Alaskans were forced to pay the highest prices in the nation for health insurance. Walker’s signature achievement in his administration was expanding Medicaid along with enacting Obamacare as a law in the state, something Gov. Sean Parnell would not do, based on constitutional questions.
O’Connor has also previously ruled in favor of Texas in a $300 million lawsuit over fees associated with Obamacare. He also ruled that an Obama Administration rule that was intended to prevent discrimination against transgender patients could violate the religious freedom of doctors who were forced to accept and treat them as patients.
Now, Obamacare heads back to O’Connor’s court, where it’s a familiar territory for him. It’s unlikely the judge will have a ruling prior to the 2020 election, which means it will kick this question into the Supreme Court following the 2020 election.