A monkey wrench ruling on health care

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As the tattered and torn Republican party heads for the exit door as leaders of the House of Representatives, a federal judge Friday gave them a reason to smile by ruling the Affordable Health Care Act unconstitutional.

A final twist of irony for the party that promised to get rid of ACA and replace it with something the said would protect all Americans at an affordable price — a promise they could not keep and yet another reason the Democrats take over the House of Representatives next month.

Texas federal judge Reed O’Connor’s ruling came on the eve of Saturday’s deadline for Americans to sign up for what is their only current opportunity to have health insurance at a time when costs are out of control and partisan pandering has whittled away at much of what it once promised and delivered to so many.

O’Connor’s ruling gave scandal-ridden president Donald Trump a rare chance to crow Friday night, tweeting:

As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster! Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions.

But the “unconstitutional” ACA law remains in effect, pending an appeal directly to the Supreme Court.

“We expect this ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court. Pending the appeal process, the law remains in place,” confirmed the White House shortly after Trump’s crowing tweet.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the presumed next speaker of the House, responded:

When House Democrats take the gavel, the House of Representatives will move swiftly to formally intervene in the appeals process to uphold the life-saving protections for people with pre-existing conditions and reject Republicans’ effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act.

The Supreme Court upheld ACA as constitutional in rulings in 2012 and 2015 but that was before Trump packed the court with two new hard-core jurists: Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh and the extreme right-wing that dominates the GOP hopes they will turn the tide against the existing health care law.

“Today’s decision is an unfortunate step backward for our health system that is contrary to overwhelming public sentiment,” says American Medical Association president Barbara McAneny. “No one wants to go back to the days of 20 percent of the population uninsured and fewer patient protections, but this decision will move us in that direction.”

Charles N. Kahn III, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, wasn’t happy either:

The judge got it wrong. This ruling would have a devastating impact on the patients we serve and the nation’s health-care system as a whole.  Having this decision come in the closing hours of open enrollment also sows seeds of unnecessary confusion.

O’Connor’s ruling did not grant an injunction to immediately halt ACA.

Notes Washington and Lee University health law expert Timothy Jost, a professor emeritus:

It’s unclear whether this is a final judgment, whether it’s appealable, whether it can be stayed. it’s breathtaking what O’Connor’s doing here on a Friday night after the courts closed.

It’s called throwing a monkey wrench into the system, a common practice by those opposed to the ACA.

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