The Associated Press reports: “A federal judge’s ruling that the Obama health law is unconstitutional has landed like a stink bomb among Republicans, who’ve seen the politics of health care flip as Americans increasingly value the overhaul’s core parts, including protections for pre-existing medical conditions and Medicaid for more low-income people.” Last Friday’s decision by a federal district judge in Texas has been the radical right’s dream ever since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, but Republican candidates who were hammered on this issue in the 2018 Election aren’t happy that the future looks the same for them in 2020. Meanwhile, average citizens who have benefited from the ACA were posting panicked messages on social media, worrying about loss of insurance plans for themselves or loved ones because of pre-existing conditions or young adult children being thrown off their parents’ plans.
Health care was the top issue for about one-quarter of voters in the November election, ahead of immigration and jobs and the economy, according to VoteCast, a nationwide survey for The Associated Press. Those most concerned with health care supported Democrats overwhelmingly. This lawsuit guarantees that healthcare will remain a top talking point for Democrats in the months leading up to the 2020 Election. Nancy Pelosi has vowed that the House will file as an intervenor in the lawsuit to support the ACA once control shifts to Democrats in January.
Background: The lawsuit was brought by Attorney-Generals in Republican-controlled states — including Arizona. Lead by the Texas AG, the suit was filed in Texas. This means appeals will initially go to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and eventually to the U.S. Supreme Court. The legal arguments are summarized in the AP article as published in the Arizona Daily Sun. Recall that the U.S. Supreme Court has already heard two challenges to the ACA. In the first, Chief Judge John Roberts crafted what some experts saw as a compromise with the radical right by finding that the individual mandate would be unconstitutional under the commerce clause but is constitutional as part of Congress’s taxing powers. In the second lawsuit, the Supreme Court held that states could not be forced to expand Medicaid. This new lawsuit will present different questions — if the Republican AGs continue to press it. The final appeals are unlikely to be resolved until 2020. Meanwhile, the ACA will continue to operate (most likely — the district court’s order will have to be stayed for this to happen but given the potential for market disruption, it’s most likely to be stayed.)
More from the AP article:
Economist Gail Wilensky, who oversaw the Medicare program for President George H.W. Bush, said the state attorneys general from GOP strongholds who filed the lawsuit really weren’t very considerate of their fellow Republicans.
“The fact that they could cause their fellow Republicans harm did not seem to bother them,” said Wilensky, a critic of President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.
“The people who raised it are a bunch of guys who don’t have serious election issues, mostly from states where saber-rattling against the ACA is fine,” she added. “How many elections do you have to get battered before you find another issue?”
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, top policy adviser to Republican John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, said he was struck by the relative silence from top Republicans after the ruling issued.
A prominent example: “The House was not party to this suit, and we are reviewing the ruling and its impact,” said AshLee Strong, spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
Here’s a good reference point and a reminder of what the ACA does, by Victoria Brownsworth on Twitter.