ACA: Alive and Well or on Death’s Doorstep?
December 16, 2018
By: Jill E. Hall
The highly publicized decision from a federal district court judge in Texas declaring the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional has raised serious questions across America, not the least of which is – Is the Affordable Care Act still the law of the land? The answer for the time-being is, yes.
Late Friday night, the Texas district court held that the individual mandate provision of the ACA was unconstitutional because Congress eliminated the tax penalty associated with that mandate as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The court further held that, because the United State Supreme Court previously upheld the individual mandate as an exercise of Congress’s taxing power, the repeal of the penalty associated with the individual mandate means the government is no longer using its taxing power. Thus, the court found the mandate to be unconstitutional with the repeal of the penalty. The court went on to hold that the ACA could not stand without the individual mandate provision. Consequently, the court found that the entire law must be invalidated.
The district court’s decision is not the final word on the matter. First, the court declared the ACA unconstitutional, but it did not enjoin the government or states from continuing to implement the ACA. Second, one district court’s decision does not bind the entire nation. Finally, this decision will be appealed and will work its way through the court system which could take months or even years. To be sure, this recent decision is a blow to the ACA. We have not yet heard the final word, however. Until then, the ACA remains the law of the land.