On Friday, a federal judge in Texas struck down the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — on the grounds that its individual coverage mandate is unconstitutional. The judge proceeded to argue that the rest of the law cannot stand without this mandate, after which former President Barack Obama released a statement about fighting for health care and reassuring Americans that they would not immediately lose their coverage.
Judge Reed O’Connor, a federal judge in Texas who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, argued on Friday that requiring people to have health care is unconstitutional. As a result, O'Connor argued, Obamacare's individual mandate "can no longer be sustained as an exercise of Congress’ tax power," thereby invalidating the rest of the ACA.
However, CNN reported, people were still able to enroll in Obamacare on Saturday, the enrollment deadline. In his statement, which was published on Facebook, Obama reminded Americans that Saturday marked the last day of open enrollment to obtain health insurance for 2019. He also urged voters to hold Republicans accountable on this issue, in order to improve health care access in the future.
"The only way to convince them to stop trying to repeal this law, and start working to make health care better, is to keep voting, in big numbers, in every election, for people who’ll protect and improve our care," Obama said in his statement.
In addition to encouraging Americans to fight for better health care, Obama reminded his social media followers that any attempt to strike down the ACA could take a long time to go into effect.
"It’s so important for you to know that last night’s ruling changes nothing for now," Obama wrote. "As this decision makes its way through the courts, which will take months, if not years, the law remains in place and will likely stay that way. ... A lot of good people are fighting to ensure that nothing about your care will change."
Even before O'Connor issued his ruling to strike down the ACA, Obama was vocal in his promotion of Obamacare enrollment. Last week, he posted a video to all of his social media accounts, reminding people to get coverage before the Dec. 15 deadline. According to CNN, the Trump administration slashed the budget for Obamacare advertising by 90 percent, prompting Obama to find other ways to inform people about the enrollment process.
O'Connor's ruling followed a lawsuit from a group of Republican governors and states attorney generals, The New York Times reported. In the lawsuit, Republicans in Texas and 19 other states argued that the ACA was unconstitutional because Congress had reduced the individual mandate penalty to $0 starting in 2019. When they were filing the lawsuit back in September, Republicans asked O'Connor to immediately block the ACA, instead of waiting for the case to be decided.
However, Obama pointed out in his Saturday statement that such a ruling could not immediately go into effect. States run by Democrats, meanwhile, are reportedly planning to appeal O'Connor's decision, per The New York Times.