Affordable Care Act to remain in place during appeals to Texas ruling

U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor of the Northern District of Texas said the Affordable Care Act should remain in place as appeals to his decision to strike down the law weave their way through the appeal process.

On Dec. 14, the federal judge sided with 20 state attorneys general in a lawsuit against the ACA, ruling (PDF) that the ACA is unconstitutional due to zeroing out of the individual mandate penalty, which takes effect on Jan. 1. 

Over the weekend, O'Connor issued a stay and partial final judgment on the ruling, setting the stage for appeals while offering clarity requested by the attorneys general of 17 states following his decision earlier this month. The states said clarification was needed before the beginning of the year when the individual mandate penalty officially ends to avoid "extraordinary disruption."

The ruling is now expected to be appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. It's possible the case could wind up in front of the Supreme Court. 

The original complaint filed earlier this year by a coalition of 20 conservative AGs argued that by bringing its associated penalty down to $0, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act stopped the individual mandate from functioning as a tax, rendering the mandate unconstitutional.

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Shortly thereafter, the Trump administration refused to defend the law in an unusual move for the Department of Justice. However, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma promised to ensure that people with pre-existing conditions continue to receive coverage. 

Skeptical, 17 additional state AGs, all Democrats, filed a motion to intervene in April.