Sunday, 21 July, 2019

US appeals court signals sympathy to bid to strike down Obamacare

Trump officials tell one court Obamacare is failing and another it’s thriving Latest 'Obamacare' Court Battle Plays out in New Orleans
Gustavo Carr | 10 July, 2019, 16:57

A panel of federal judges in New Orleans sharply questioned attorneys defending the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday, increasing the chances that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals may throw out at least part of the 2010 law, often called Obamacare.

The Republican governors and attorneys general argue that, since the Supreme Court upheld the health care law as a valid exercise of Congress' taxing authority, taking the tax away makes all of the law unconstitutional. Republicans had tried, but failed to win full repeal of "Obamacare", as Trump had wanted. United States, a case that seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), possibly causing 32 million to lose their health insurance coverage and creating havoc within an industry that accounts for almost 18% of the US economy. The House intervened after Democrats won control in November's elections after many focused their campaigns on defending Obamacare.

On July 9, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the fifth Circuit will hear oral ion in Texas v. U.S., the following round of case testing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It was unclear when they expected to make a decision on the case.

Each side will get 45 minutes to present their arguments to the appellate court, with a decision likely to come in a few months.

Two of the three judges on the appellate panelin New Orleans - Jennifer Elrod, a George W. Bush appointee, and Kurt Engelhardt, a President Donald Trump appointee - gave the appearance that they might side with a lower court judge who ruled past year that the whole law should be struck down.

At one point, Engelhardt suggested that it was up to Congress to forge a solution to the disputes that have dogged the law since its passage, when Democrats controlled Congress and President Barack Obama was just over a year into his tenure. This year, Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill into law that prohibits insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and requires insurers to cover 10 essential health benefits. But in 2017, the Republican-led Congress zeroed out the penalty, effectively making it a blanket government order.

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The announcement was welcomed by Tom Watson, the Labour Party's deputy leader, who claimed "Remain is who we are". Labour had accepted the referendum result in its 2017 general election manifesto.

The Trump administration initially argued that, based on the 2017 tax law change, only the individual mandate and two related provisions tied to protections for people pre-existing health conditions should be invalidated. A third, appointed by Democratic President Jimmy Carter, stayed silent throughout the almost two-hour oral argument hearing in New Orleans, which follows a December decision by federal Judge Reed O'Connor of the Northern District of Texas calling for the law to be struck down. They also contended that by setting the penalty to $0, Congress had rendered the mandate a choice instead of a command. But in March, the Justice Department reversed course.

Bush appointee, asked how the plaintiff states how they would argue the mandate could not be considered separately from other provisions in the far-reaching healthcare law, such as restaurant calorie guidelines.

Democrats in the Senate said Monday that Republicans will pay a political price if the case results in the loss of popular "Obamacare".

The law's supporters argue that those who filed suit have no case because they aren't harmed by a penalty that doesn't exist; that the reduction of the tax penalty to zero could be read as a suspension of the tax, but the tax's legal structure still exists; and that, even if the individual mandate is now unconstitutional, that does not affect the rest of the law.

"Today we saw an administration pressed to explain why affordable care, and American lives, should be put at risk", said California Attorney General Xavier Beccera, who is leading defense of the law.

Industry groups and independent health care analysts say wiping out Obamacare without an alternative would mean a highly disruptive shift in the health care of millions of Americans.