The horrendous consequences of the Republican strategy to control the government through the judicial system demonstrated themselves with a massively unpopular decision yesterday by a Republican-appointed conservative judge in the Federal District Court in Fort Worth, Texas striking down the Affordable Care Act (popularly known as Obamacare) as unconstitutional.
President Trump marked with a celebratory tweet the accomplishment through the court of the campaign promise that he was unable to deliver through Congress because of the massive unpopularity of the idea of stripping health care away from millions of Americans.
Wow, but not surprisingly, ObamaCare was just ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL by a highly respected judge in Texas. Great news for America!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 15, 2018
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The reaction to the ruling from Democrats was decidedly more negative, to say the least.
“This is a five-alarm fire,” said Senator Christopher S. Murphy (D-CT). “Republicans just blew up our health care system.”
Republican leadership in the Senate engineered this outcome by repeatedly refusing to confirm many of President Obama’s judicial nominees while he was still in office and then packing the courts with judges culled from lists compiled by the right-wing Federalist Society since Trump was inaugurated. The GOP’s obstructionism left Trump with 88 district and 17 court of appeals vacancies to fill.
The increasingly right-ward shift of the federal courts means that even when Republicans are defeated at the ballot box over their increasingly unpopular and harmful policies, their legacy of supporting corporations and the wealthy over the interests of the average American will endure at the judicial level for decades.
Judge Reed O’Connor’s decision yesterday did not include an injunction that would immediately halt the continued implementation of the ACA, so the law will continue to be in effect as the inevitable appeal process winds its way through the courts with the likely eventual destination of a Supreme Court ruling on its validity.
While the Supreme Court has already ruled that Obamacare passes legal muster, the tax law changes passed last year offered Republicans another opportunity to challenge the statute’s legality under the new legislation.
The timing of the judge’s decision, coming a day before the last day to enroll for ACA insurance in most states, couldn’t be worse and caused considerable confusion among procrastinating health care consumers.
The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services tried to clear up the uncertainty around the immediate impact of the judge’s ruling by sending an email explaining that there would be no changes while the case moved through the appeal process.
“The marketplaces are still open for business, and we will continue with open enrollment. There will be no impact to enrollees’ current coverage or their coverage in a 2019 plan,” the email stated.
With the deadline for ACA enrollment taking place today in the vast majority of states, it’s urgent that anyone who hasn’t yet enrolled do so immediately!
Judge O’Connor’s draconian decision would not only eliminate protections for people with pre-existing health conditions but would also extinguish mandatory coverage for essential health benefits, including emergency services, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse treatment, prescription drugs and pediatric care.
According to The Times:
“The Democrats’ first step will be in the courts; aides to Representative Nancy Pelosi, the top House Democrat, said Saturday that House Democrats would move quickly to notify the Trump administration that they intended to intervene in the case. A vote on a resolution to do so is expected in the earliest days of the new Congress.”
‘Democrats also intend to convene hearings to spotlight the sweeping impact of the Texas ruling — and lay the groundwork for their case to reclaim the White House in 2020. If upheld on appeal, the decision could deprive an estimated 17 million Americans of their health insurance — including millions who gained coverage through the law’s expansion of Medicaid. Still others could see premiums skyrocket as price protections for pre-existing conditions lapse,” the paper reported.
The only good news in the newly decided ruling on Obamacare is the impetus it will give to Democrats to coalesce around plans to pass new legislation establishing a new Medicare-for-all health care system that would emulate the health care guarantees that every other civilized nation offers its own citizens with better health outcomes at substantially lower costs than the U.S. for-profit health care system manages.
“Democrats need to put a bright North Star in the sky for 2020 voters showing what Democrats would do with more power, and making clear that we’re moving toward ‘Medicare for all’ as a big part of a 2020 electoral strategy,” said Adam Green, a founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, an advocacy group. “It seems pretty clear that the presidential nominee, whoever it is, will support Medicare for all.”
While the Texas judge’s ruling seems like a defeat, it could, in the end, be just the impetus needed to push Congress into granting American citizens the health care rights that they deserve.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.