Texas asks a federal judge to block Obamacare nationwide


Leading a 20-state coalition with Wisconsin, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked a U.S. District Court to strike down Obamacare – and issue a nationwide injunction to halt the program while the coalition’s lawsuit against it proceeds.

During today’s federal court hearing in Fort Worth, lawyers for the attorney general’s office argued that when Congress enacted President Trump’s tax overhaul, it rendered all of Obamacare unconstitutional by doing away with the tax penalty enforcing Obamacare’s individual mandate.

“The Supreme Court held Obamacare was only tethered to the Constitution by a very thin thread – the fact that the individual penalty raised some revenue. Congress severed that thin thread with the tax act of 2017, and all of Obamacare must fall,” Attorney General Paxton said. “On some of the most important issues, the Department of Justice under both President Trump and President Obama agreed with our position. Texans and other Americans should be free again to make their own healthcare choices, including which doctor they want to see.”

When the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare in 2012 (NFIB v. Sebelius), a majority of the justices agreed that the provision forcing individuals to purchase health insurance was unconstitutional under Congress’s power to regulate commerce. As Chief Justice John Roberts explained, the Commerce Clause gives Congress the power to regulate commerce, and not to compel commerce, as Obamacare does.

Furthermore, Congress and the Obama administration made it clear that the individual mandate was an essential component of the law, without which other major components of the law would not have been enacted.

In its current form, Obamacare imposes rising costs and transfers an enormous amount of regulatory power to the federal government. In Texas and 38 other states, where the federal government administers health exchanges, health insurance premiums rose an average of 105 percent from 2013 to 2017. Around 70 percent of U.S. counties have only one or two Obamacare exchange insurers for recipients to choose from.

Last June, the U.S. Department of Justice conceded in court filings that Obamacare’s individual mandate is unconstitutional and asked a federal judge to strike it down along with other central provisions of Obamacare before the tax law takes effect on January 1, 2019.

Texas has sued over Obamacare before, and just last month the state won a small victory — also in O’Connor’s court — over a fee associated with the law, sending some $300 million back into state coffers. But this sweeping lawsuit would go much further; it aims to entirely undo the landmark work of legislation.

Texas and Wisconsin are joined in the lawsuit against Obamacare by the attorneys general of Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia, along with the governors of Maine and Mississippi.

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