Twenty states have launched a legal attack to bring down the Affordable Care Act (ACA) once and for all.
Led by attorneys general in Texas and Wisconsin, the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Texas claims the repeal of the ACA’s individual mandate’s tax penalty renders the entire law unconstitutional.
“Absent the individual mandate, the ACA is an irrational regulatory regime governing an essential market,” the complaint (PDF) states.
The individual mandate was eliminated beginning in 2019 as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, signed by President Trump in December. The complaint references the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling which upheld the government’s constitutional authority to levy taxes against individuals but stated that the individual mandate alone was unconstitutional.
In a statement, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the ACA hinged on the “flimsy support of Congress’ authority to tax.”
“Congress has now kicked that flimsy support from beneath the law,” he said. “The U.S. Supreme Court already admitted that an individual mandate without a tax penalty is unconstitutional. With no remaining legitimate basis for the law, it is time that Americans are finally free from the stranglehold of Obamacare, once and for all.”
The states are seeking a permanent injunction against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Internal Revenue Service from implementing or enforcing the law and asking the court to declare the ACA unconstitutional.
Since its inception, the ACA has withstood a constant barrage of legal challenges from states and lawmakers, including multiple trips to the Supreme Court. Just days after the law was signed by President Barack Obama, 14 states filed a lawsuit to block the law.
In 2014, the House of Representatives, led by Speaker John Boehner, sued the Obama administration over cost-sharing reduction subsidies. That legal challenge was settled by the Trump administration in December, thanks in part to Trump’s decision to stop the CSR payments.