US Politics

Trump hails judge's ruling against Obamacare as 'great'

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President Trump has praised a ruling by a federal judge that says the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare is unconstitutional.

President Donald Trump has hailed a court decision against Obamacare as “a great ruling for our country,” while a US government official said the decision by a Texas judge would have no immediate impact on health coverage.

US District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth, Texas, on Friday said that Obamacare, known formally as the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), was unconstitutional based on its mandate requiring that people buy health insurance.

In a decision that could reach the US Supreme Court, O’Connor sided with a coalition of 20 states that argued requiring people to pay for insurance coverage is illegal because a change in tax law last year eliminated a penalty for not having health insurance.

“It’s a great ruling for our country. We will be able to get great healthcare. We will sit down with the Democrats if the Supreme Court upholds,” Trump told reporters during a visit to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on a rainy Saturday.

Trump offered no details on the potential for healthcare talks with the Democrats, who are poised to take majority control of the US House of Representatives in early January. The Senate will remain in Republican hands.

O’Connor’s decision was issued the day before the end of a 45-day sign-up period for 2019 health coverage under the law.

The head of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which oversees the Affordable Care Act, said there were no changes and exchanges were open for business.

Judge O’Connor sided with a coalition of 20 states that argued requiring people to pay for insurance coverage is illegal.
Judge O’Connor sided with a coalition of 20 states that argued requiring people to pay for insurance coverage is illegal.
AAP

“We expect this ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “Pending the appeal process, the law remains in place.”

“There is no impact to current coverage or coverage in a 2019 plan,” she said late on Friday.

High political stakes

Since the law’s formative stages amid concern about millions of Americans lacking health insurance, Republicans have opposed Obamacare, calling it a costly and unneeded government intrusion into Americans’ lives.

Trump campaigned against it in 2016.

They have repeatedly tried, but failed, to repeal the law, which was the signature domestic policy achievement of former Democratic President Barack Obama. Even with control of both chambers of Congress and the White House in 2017, Republicans could not push through a repeal.

The O’Connor ruling underscored the high political stakes involved in the divide over healthcare, especially for Trump and his fellow Republicans ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

The Affordable Care Act was the cornerstone and legacy of Barack Obama's time in office.
The Affordable Care Act was the cornerstone and legacy of Barack Obama's time in office.
AAP

If the Supreme Court were to uphold O’Connor’s ruling, it would go a long way toward dismantling Obamacare.

That would be a political victory for Republicans, but it would also likely strip millions of Americans of their health coverage, a policy problem for which Republicans have offered no clear solution.

About 11.8 million consumers nationwide enrolled in 2018 Obamacare exchange plans.

The Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act in 2012.

Two days after the Nov. 6 US congressional elections, a Reuters/Ipsos national opinion poll found that healthcare was the top issue Americans wanted the US Congress to address.

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