The Affordable Care Act has been declared unconstitutional. What does that mean for people who need it?

Dec 17, 2018, 4:27 PM

A Texas federal judge ruled on Friday that the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare”, is unconstitutional.

The ruling has the potential to impact millions of Americans who rely on the act for their healthcare and has many worried about what will happen to their health insurance.

To better understand how this ruling affects Medicaid in the United States, KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic spoke with political analyst Boyd Matheson and asked: what’s going to happen next?

How the Affordable Care Act could change

affordable care act

In this March 23, 2010 file photo, Marcelas Owens of Seattle, left, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., right, and others, look on as President Barack Obama signs the health care bill in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press)

For the time being, Matheson told Dave & Dujanovic, nothing is going to change. “Until it gets to the Supreme Court,” he says, “everything remains the same.”

The Texas court’s ruling doesn’t have any immediate effect. It is expected that it will be appealed up to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and, if necessary, on to the Supreme Court. Until it passes through those appeals, nothing about the Affordable Care Act will change.

If the Supreme Court upholds the ruling, however, the effect will be profound.

The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by 20 state attorney generals who claim that the Affordable Care Act became unconstitutional when Congress eliminated the mandate requiring anyone without health insurance to pay an extra tax.

Under the original Affordable Care Act, Americans were required to have health insurance or face a fine, a controversial rule the Supreme Court only considered constitutional if the fine was classified as a tax.

In 2017, however, that tax was removed, and, on that basis, the plaintiffs in the case argue that the mandate – and, by extension, the entire Affordable Care Act – is now unconstitutional.

Their argument was enough to convince the courts in Texas, who ruled that “the Individual Mandate ‘is essential to’ and inseverable from ‘the other provisions’ of the ACA.”

If his ruling is upheld, every page of the Affordable Care Act will be repealed, including its rule that health care providers may not refuse to cover patients or charge them more because of pre-existing conditions.

A chance for compromise

Matheson, however, is hopeful that this will be an opportunity for both sides of the political spectrum to come up with a plan that works for everybody.

“Regardless of what happens next … Congress needs to do its job,” he told Dave and Dujanovic. “They need to bring this to the table and actually really work it through and get to the right result.”

Getting Republican and Democrats to reach that compromise, however, will be difficult. Already, leaders on both sides have taken strong positions on the future of the Affordable Care Act.

President Donald Trump has taken to Twitter to cheer on the ruling:

While former President Obama has urged Americans to continue to enroll, while complaining that Republicans will “never stop” trying to destroy his bill:

This, Matheson believes, is a sign of things to come. Over the next few months, he predicts, we’re going to see vicious attacks ads from both sides of the aisle, demonizing the other side for their stance on the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats, he predicts, will release ads saying that Republicans are “going to push grandma off the cliff”, while Republicans will release ads warning of the “evils” of socialism.

“Both of the political parties are going to raise hundreds and millions of dollars off of this,” Matheson says, “and get no closer to a solution for the American people.”

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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The Affordable Care Act has been declared unconstitutional. What does that mean for people who need it?