Judge keeps Obamacare in place during appeal

FORT WORTH, Texas (CN) – A Texas federal judge who controversially invalidated the Affordable Care Act two weeks ago agreed late Sunday to allow the law to stand while his ruling is appealed, citing “great uncertainty” for those seeking health care coverage.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor issued a 30-page order granting a stay and partial final judgment that was requested on Dec. 17 by 16 Democrat-led states that are defending the national health care law, commonly known as Obamacare, in the case.

“But because many everyday Americans would otherwise face great uncertainty during the pendency of appeal, the court finds that that Dec. 14, 2018 order declaring the individual mandate unconstitutional and inseverable should be stayed,” O’Connor wrote.

On Dec. 14, O’Connor granted a partial summary judgment sought by lead plaintiff Texas that found the ACA’s individual mandate is invalid because the Republican-enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 reduced its tax penalty to zero. Texas successfully argued the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding of Obamacare in 2015 concluded the mandate would be an unconstitutional exercise of federal power without the tax penalty.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Sunday evening that his office is “eager to defend the district court’s ruling” striking down Obamacare.

“We have no quarrel with the district court’s stay, which provides the states with an opportunity to develop plans to address the health care needs of their residents for the day this ruling is ultimately upheld,” he said in a statement.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the Democratic states will “march on” in an appeal to the Fifth Circuit.

“We’ve always said we’re going to protect the #healthcare of Americans and make clear that the #ACA is the law of the land,” he tweeted Sunday evening.

Regardless of how the Fifth Circuit rules, the case is almost certain to be appealed again to the Supreme Court.

Filed in February, Texas’ lawsuit is being defended against by the intervenor Democrat-led states because the Trump administration announced in June it would not defend against the lawsuit, which names the United States as a defendant.

President Donald Trump and the Republican majorities in both houses of Congress have so far failed to pass legislation outright repealing the law.

Several health care and physician groups, led by the American Medical Association, filed a brief in support of Obamacare in June, claiming Texas lacks standing and killing the law would “wreak havoc” on the American healthcare system.

O’Connor was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush. He has already overturned several other policies enacted under President Barack Obama. In January 2017, he blocked an ACA rule change that would have banned doctors from citing religious objects when refusing to perform abortions or gender-reassignment surgeries.

In March 2015, the judge halted implementation of a Labor Department rule to force employers in anti-gay marriage states to recognize same-sex couples married in other states. Lead plaintiff Texas claimed the extension of Family and Medical Leave Act benefits to same-sex couples would violate the Texas Constitution because it redefined the definition of what a “spouse” is.