As the holiday season gets into full swing, more than 350,000 San Diego County residents face an uncertain healthcare future following news late Friday that a federal judge in Texas ruled the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional and therefore the whole law is invalid.
Judge Reed O’Connor of the Federal District Court in Fort Worth said in his ruling that the individual mandate requiring people to have health insurance “is unconstitutional” and the remaining provisions of the Affordable Care Act are therefore invalid.
Following the ruling, President Trump tweeted, “As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster! Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions. Mitch and Nancy, get it done!”
Republican governors and state attorneys filed the lawsuit earlier this year. A spokesperson for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the state, along with other states, will challenge Friday’s ruling. Many pundits are predicting the decision will likely make its way to the Supreme Court.
“Today’s ruling is an assault on 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, on the 20 million Americans who rely on the A.C.A.’s consumer protections for health care, on America’s faithful progress toward affordable health care for all Americans,” Becerra said in a statement. “The A.C.A. has already survived more than 70 unsuccessful repeal attempts and withstood scrutiny in the Supreme Court.”
Reports indicate more than 350,000 San Diego County residents are enrolled in Obamacare. The program is implemented through Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace established to help individuals and small businesses purchase health insurance at federally subsidized rates. Even those who don’t qualify for subsidized coverage enjoy certain benefits of Obamacare, in particular the mandate to ensure insurance companies don’t discriminate against people with preexisting healthcare conditions, and the mandate that allows children to remain on their parents’ healthcare plans until age 26.
It is not clear how the ruling will immediately impact Covered California enrollees, or those who purchase insurance on the open market without any subsidies, or those who receive employer healthcare benefits.
Covered California is still accepting applications for 2019 healthcare coverage but the open enrollment period for 2019 ends Jan. 15.