This past week, Texas Federal Judge Reed O’Connor ruled that the entire Affordable Care Act should be thrown out — although he did not include specific implementation measures like an injunction against the law in his ruling. Democrats have quickly mobilized in response even still, intending according to a new report in The New York Times to use their incoming majority in the U.S. House to their advantage — and that of the millions upon millions of Americans who have health coverage thanks to the law.
Options on the table include Congressional hearings to highlight the impact of O’Connor’s ruling, which is hardly a final word and set for appeals. The case that he ruled in was brought by a coalition of Republican-led states from across the United States who challenged the law on the basis of the mandate for Americans to buy health insurance — which the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled was legal once before. Just this past year, as part of the sweeping tax plan President Donald Trump signed into law, the individual mandate was thrown out — but O’Connor says that the different portions of the law are too intertwined to allow them to stand on their own without the mandate.
Aides to incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi have said, according to The Times, that House Democrats would “move quickly to notify the Trump administration that they intend to intervene in the case.” The House has actually played a role in court battles associated with the ACA before — the difference was that under Republican leadership, the body filed on behalf of the law’s opponents. This time around, a vote on a resolution to jump into the tumult in favor of the law “is expected in the earliest days of the new Congress.”
The path for Democrats might be a rockier one than they’ve faced in the past. Should the case make it to the Supreme Court, it would confront a bench packed with Republicans including two judges put there by President Trump himself.
Some have suggested that the ruling positions Democrats to use health care as a major talking point heading into 2020 when they intend to retake the White House. After all, Republicans now have to come face to face with the reality that they oppose measures like protection for those with pre-existing conditions — a feature of the ACA that plenty on the campaign trail including the president himself have previously claimed to support.
Despite his past praise for ideas like protecting those who suffer from pre-existing conditions, Trump quickly praised O’Connor’s ruling, calling it a “big, big victory” enacted by a “highly respected judge.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) insisted:
‘This is a five-alarm fire. Republicans just blew up our health care system.’
Possibilities for the future include the ruling at the center of the controversy getting overturned in appeals court — and there are options before the currently right leaning Supreme Court — and even Medicare-for-all under a potential Democratic president come 2021. The idea to expand public health coverage even further has been batted around in Democratic circles for quite some time and continued to pick up steam — and remained a priority largely confined to the Democrats.
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