Relief because the three-judge panel of the USA 5th Circuit Court of Appeals stopped short of declaring the entire law unconstitutional, as had a lower-court judge ruling in a case brought by Texas and 17 other red states.
"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 ruling stated. Instead, it sent the case back, ordering the lower court "to employ a finer-toothed comb. and conduct a more searching inquiry into which provisions of the ACA Congress meant to be inseverable from the individual mandate".
The ruling Wednesday ordered the trial judge to reconsider his ruling that the entire law must fall because the individual mandate was the glue that held it together. "It may also be that some of the ACA is severable from the individual mandate, and some is not", Judge Jennifer Elrod wrote.
"Careless judicial interference has the potential to be especially pernicious when it involves a complex statute like the ACA, which carries significant implications for the welfare of the economy and the American populace at large", wrote Judge Carolyn Dineen King, the only Democrat on the three-judge panel and the sole dissenter. Walker's signature achievement in his administration was expanding Medicaid along with enacting Obamacare as a law in the state, something Gov. Sean Parnell would not do, based on constitutional questions.
"As the court's opinion recognized, the only reason the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare in 2012 was Congress' taxing power, and without the individual mandate's penalty that justification crumbled", Paxton wrote.
"Today's decision is a victory for the American people and respect for the Constitution", Robert Henneke, lead counsel for the individual plaintiffs and general counsel for the foundation, said in a media statement. "The radical healthcare changes being proposed by the far left would strip Americans of their current coverage".
Even many conservatives and ACA critics agreed that the ruling was indefensible.
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The states then sued after the Republican-led U.S. House in 2017 set the tax penalty at zero.
The lawsuit followed congressional approval of a major tax cut in 2017, which included the reduction of the "Obamacare" tax on the uninsured to zero.
Preexisting condition protections and Obamacare insurance subsidies remain in place, for now, as the case continues. The appeals court agreed with a Texas trial judge who first heard the lawsuit. There are severe penalties in the law for those who don't have health insurance.
The hope among health care advocates was that the 5th Circuit would hear the appeal, overturn the nonsensical district court ruling, and the matter would be put to rest.
"The most straightforward reading applies: the mandate is a command". When the case was in front of the trial judge, the Justice Department said parts of the law could be saved.
Other elements of the law that are at potential risk include insurance subsidies for most people buying health plans through ACA marketplaces, designed for individuals and families that can not get affordable health benefits through a job; the expansion of Medicaid in three dozen states; the ability of young adults to stay on their parents' insurance policies until they turn 26; and no-charge preventive care for older Americans on Medicare. "Using that meaning, the individual mandate is unconstitutional".
Trump's administration supported the legal challenge and declined to defend the law in court. Despite Donald Trump's efforts to sabotage the health care reform law, the assessment rang true.