A Federal Court Just Found a Key Part of Obamacare Unconstitutional

But the rest of the case was remanded to district court, leaving the bulk of the ACA safe for now.

Sachelle Babbar/Zuma

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A federal appeals court just dealt a major blow to Obamacare.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the individual mandate—a key part of the Affordable Care Act requiring uninsured Americans to pay a yearly penalty—was unconstitutional since it could no longer be considered a tax after the GOP tax bill from 2017 set the penalty for failing to obtain insurance at $0. In 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the ACA on the grounds that the individual mandate was a tax.

Still, the central question of Texas v. United States—whether the lack of an individual mandate invalidates the rest of the ACA—remains unanswered. The case has been sent back down to a district court to decide which parts of the law can stand and which must be jettisoned. That could spell serious trouble for many popular provisions of the law—including the ban on charging higher rates and denying coverage based on preexisting conditions—since that lower court previously struck down the entire ACA after ruling against the mandate.

The case was initially filed by a group of Republican state attorneys general, but the Trump administration later signed on to argue that all of Obamacare should be struck down. The Fifth Circuit’s decision to remand the case back to district court might offer political cover to Trump, though, since it is now unlikely that the case would reach the Supreme Court before the next election.

For now, the ruling has no actual effects on the law outside the mandate. The ACA remains in effect, and people who signed up for insurance during the 2020 open enrollment period will still be covered.

Read the entire decision here.

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Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

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Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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