By Lauren Bikoff, MLS
On December 30, 2018, Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas, the judge who ruled earlier in December that the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was invalid, issued a stay and partial final judgement in Texas v. U.S. This will allow the parties to immediately appeal his decision to the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, and ensures that the provisions of the ACA remain fully in effect in all 50 states and the District of Columbia until a final judgement is reached (Texas v. U.S., December 30, 2018, O’Connor, R.).
Background. On December 14, 2018, Judge O’Connor ruled that the ACA is unconstitutional following the repeal of the legislation’s individual mandate penalty under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA). The court accepted the argument of 18 state attorneys general and two Republican governors that the individual mandate penalty was “essential to” the ACA, rendering the health reform law “untenable” in its absence. Although the court granted the states’ motion for summary judgment regarding the ACA’s constitutionality, leaving the remainder of the ACA invalid, the court denied the states’ request for an injunction, opening a question about the future of marketplace enrollees and the law’s preexisting condition protections, among other provisions governing employer-sponsored health plans (see Federal judge lets ACA fall, saying Congress sawed off its last leg, December 19, 2018).
The decision led Democratic attorneys general who intervened in the case to ask Judge O’Connor to confirm that the ACA’s protections remain fully in effect, to stay his December 14 decision, and to allow for a prompt appeal to the Fifth Circuit. Judge O’Connor asked the plaintiffs and federal government to respond to these requests. All parties the plaintiffs, the federal government, and the intervenor states agreed that Judge O’Connor should allow for an appeal and stay additional proceedings.
Stay. In the stay and partial final judgement, Judge O’Connor said that his ruling should not go into immediate effect “because many everyday Americans would otherwise face great uncertainty” during an appeal. However, O’Connor said that he believed California and other states supporting the ACA were “unlikely to succeed” in their appeal.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said that he would “march forward” in his fight to keep health care affordable and accessible. “We are going to protect the health care of Americans and make clear that the ACA is the law of the land,” he said. California plans to file an appeal “imminently,” he continued.
The case is No. 4:18-cv-00167-O.
Attorneys: Darren L. McCarty, Office of the Attorney General, for Texas, Alabama and Arizona. Brett Shumate, US Department of Justice, for the United States, Department of Health & Human Services and U.S. Interval Revenue Services.
Companies: Texas; Alabama; Arizona; Department of Health & Human Services; U.S. Interval Revenue Services
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