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Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Obamacare's Health Insurance Mandate

Gabriel C. Pérez

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled the Affordable Care Act's mandate requiring people to have health insurance is unconstitutional.

"The individual mandate is unconstitutional because it can no longer be read as a tax, and there is no other constitutional provision that justifies this exercise of congressional power," the three-judge panel ruled.

The court sent the case back to a lower court to decide whether the rest of the federal health care law can exist without it.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who led the multistate challenge to the law, said the ruling "reassures the American people that the legal system can be held to its word."  

“As the court’s opinion recognized, the only reason the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare in 2012 was Congress’ taxing power," he said in a statement, "and without the individual mandate’s penalty that justification crumbled."

He and other opponents argue the rest of the law can't stand without the provision.

In December, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth sided with Paxton and other Republican leaders, who argued the law was invalidated when Congress eliminated the tax penalty for not having health insurance. But he stopped short of striking it down altogether.

Because the Trump administration refused to defend Obamacare in court, a Democratic coalition led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra led the defense. It appealed to the Fifth Circuit.  

Legal experts have said the ruling will be appealed – and the case will likely end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. In the meantime, there will be no immediate effect on the country’s health care system.

This story has been updated.

Got a tip? Email Ashley at alopez@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.

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Ashley Lopez is a reporter forWGCUNews. A native of Miami, she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a journalism degree.
Ashley Lopez
Ashley Lopez joined KUT in January 2016. She covers politics and health care, and is part of the NPR-Kaiser Health News reporting collaborative. Previously she worked as a reporter at public radio stations in Louisville, Ky.; Miami and Fort Myers, Fla., where she won a National Edward R. Murrow Award.