A Republican Federal Judge Just Sided With Trump and Ruled That Obamacare Is Unconstitutional

If the decision survives appeal, health insurers will once again be able to refuse coverage for preexisting conditions.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) gestures during a news conference held by House Democrats condemning the Trump administration's targeting of the Affordable Care Act's preexisting conditions. Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty Images

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

A federal judge in Texas issued a late Friday ruling finding that the entire Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. The order came in a lawsuit filed by 20 Republican state attorneys general, who sued the federal government claiming that, because Congress eliminated last year the individual mandate that required Americans to buy health insurance, the entire law should be unconstitutional. Friday’s ruling means everything in the law—protections for preexisting conditions coverage, Medicaid expansion, provisions for young people to stay on their parents’ health care plans until age 26, even a requirement for calorie counts on restaurant menus—could be in jeopardy if it is allowed to stand.

The lawsuit, which was supported by the Trump administration, could throw the health insurance markets into utter chaos, causing millions to lose their insurance—something many Republican candidates in this year’s midterm elections promised wouldn’t happen on their watch, even as they backed the lawsuit.

In the run-up to the midterm elections, Republicans such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker campaigned on dubious promises that they would protect Americans with preexisting health conditions—even as they supported the lawsuit in Texas that would gut those protections. Earlier Friday afternoon, Walker signed a set of bills passed in a lame-duck session since he lost election last month, which included revoking the incoming Democratic state attorney general’s ability to withdraw Wisconsin from the lawsuit.

Judge Reed O’Connor, who is known for issuing quick decisions in politically charged cases, appeared to sit on a decision in the Obamacare case, leading to speculation he was waiting until after the midterms to blow up the health care system in an effort to help Republican candidates. He waited just a little over five weeks after the election to issue his controversial ruling—issuing it on Friday night, just as open enrollment for 2019 Obamacare plans was coming to a close.

Liberals took to Twitter to condemn the ruling and its timing.

The ruling is likely to be appealed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, where its fate is uncertain. President Donald Trump has appointed five new judges to that court who are extremely far-right and hostile to the ACA. But even some conservatives seemed to think the order was likely to be overturned on appeal for grossly overreaching. Conservative legal scholar Jonathan Adler agreed with Bagley, suggesting that O’Connor’s ruling was “insane” and that if it made it to the Supreme Court, it would be “lucky to get two votes.”

LET’S TALK ABOUT OPTIMISM FOR A CHANGE

Democracy and journalism are in crisis mode—and have been for a while. So how about doing something different?

Mother Jones did. We just merged with the Center for Investigative Reporting, bringing the radio show Reveal, the documentary film team CIR Studios, and Mother Jones together as one bigger, bolder investigative journalism nonprofit.

And this is the first time we’re asking you to support the new organization we’re building. In “Less Dreading, More Doing,” we lay it all out for you: why we merged, how we’re stronger together, why we’re optimistic about the work ahead, and why we need to raise the First $500,000 in online donations by June 22.

It won’t be easy. There are many exciting new things to share with you, but spoiler: Wiggle room in our budget is not among them. We can’t afford missing these goals. We need this to be a big one. Falling flat would be utterly devastating right now.

A First $500,000 donation of $500, $50, or $5 would mean the world to us—a signal that you believe in the power of independent investigative reporting like we do. And whether you can pitch in or not, we have a free Strengthen Journalism sticker for you so you can help us spread the word and make the most of this huge moment.

payment methods

LET’S TALK ABOUT OPTIMISM FOR A CHANGE

Democracy and journalism are in crisis mode—and have been for a while. So how about doing something different?

Mother Jones did. We just merged with the Center for Investigative Reporting, bringing the radio show Reveal, the documentary film team CIR Studios, and Mother Jones together as one bigger, bolder investigative journalism nonprofit.

And this is the first time we’re asking you to support the new organization we’re building. In “Less Dreading, More Doing,” we lay it all out for you: why we merged, how we’re stronger together, why we’re optimistic about the work ahead, and why we need to raise the First $500,000 in online donations by June 22.

It won’t be easy. There are many exciting new things to share with you, but spoiler: Wiggle room in our budget is not among them. We can’t afford missing these goals. We need this to be a big one. Falling flat would be utterly devastating right now.

A First $500,000 donation of $500, $50, or $5 would mean the world to us—a signal that you believe in the power of independent investigative reporting like we do. And whether you can pitch in or not, we have a free Strengthen Journalism sticker for you so you can help us spread the word and make the most of this huge moment.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate