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  • Washington Highlights

    House Votes to Allow Intervention by General Counsel After US District Court Declares ACA Unconstitutional

    Ivy Baer, Senior Director and Regulatory Counsel

    The House of Representatives Jan. 9 voted, 235-192, to allow its general counsel to intervene in the lawsuit to defend the Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148 and P.L. 111-152), after a federal district judge ruled that the individual mandate is unconstitutional, and as a result, the entire ACA is unconstitutional. The provision was included in H.Res. 6, a resolution to adopt new rules for the 116th Congress.

    U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor Dec. 14, 2018, ruled that since Congress repealed the tax penalty enforcing the individual mandate under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-97), it is no longer a tax and therefore is unconstitutional. The court further ruled that the individual mandate could not be severed from the remaining provisions of the ACA, thereby invalidating the entire law.

    Judge O’Connor Dec. 30, 2018, issued a stay, keeping the ACA in effect as legal proceedings continue, and entered a partial final judgment that will allow an immediate appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Following a decision by the Fifth Circuit, the case will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court.

    The December 2018 decision has no immediate, direct legal effect. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stated that the court’s ruling “is not an injunction that halts the enforcement” of the ACA and HHS will continue administering the law as it had before the decision.