NEW ORLEANS (AP) – The “individual mandate” of former President Barack Obama’s health care law is invalid, but other parts of the law need further review, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.
The 2-1 ruling was handed down by a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The panel agreed with Texas-based U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor’s 2018 finding that the law’s insurance requirement, the so-called “individual mandate,” was rendered unconstitutional when Congress, in 2017, reduced a tax on people without insurance to zero.
The court reached no decision on the big issue – how much of the Affordable Care Act must fall along with the insurance mandate. It may still be that none of the ACA is severable from the individual mandate, even after this inquiry is concluded. It may be that all of the ACA is severable from the individual mandate. It may also be that some of the ACA is severable from the individual mandate, and some is not,” Elrod wrote.
In dissent, Judge Carolyn Dineen King said her colleagues were prolonging “uncertainty over the future of the healthcare sector.” King would have found the mandate constitutional, although unenforceable, and would have left the rest of the law alone.
“Without any enforcement mechanism to speak of, questions about the legality of the individual ‘mandate’ are purely academic, and people can purchase insurance-or not-as they please,” King wrote. “No more need be said; it has long been settled that the federal courts deal in cases and controversies, not academic curiosities.”