By Cindy Amedee
Taylor Porter; Healthcare Attorney
In a 2-1 vote on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans affirmed a lower court’s ruling that the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) mandate that an individual purchase insurance or be taxed is unconstitutional.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ACA citing Congress’ taxing authority. However, in 2017, Congress implemented a $1.5 trillion tax cut that effectively repealed the ACA’s tax on people who refuse to purchase insurance.
Given that the tax provision of the ACA was already gutted by Congress’ 2017 tax cut, the Fifth Circuit’s ruling has little to no practical impact in that respect. However, as part of its ruling, the Fifth Circuit also remanded the case back to the lower court for a determination on the constitutionality of the other provisions of the ACA without the individual mandate. This puts at the forefront whether the entirety of the statute should be struck down, thereby raising questions about the future of, among other things, insurance coverage and protection for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
The looming question as to the constitutionality of the remainder of the ACA comes at a time when the 2020 presidential candidates and campaigns are grappling with rising medical costs and insurance coverage as chief issues in the presidential race.
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