Appeals court panel grills Democratic defenders on constitutionality of Obamacare

Democratic group unleashes ad blitz against Reyes and other GOP attorneys general fighting to topple Obamacare

Democratic group unleashes ad blitz against Reyes and other GOP attorneys general fighting to topple Obamacare

The future of the United States's Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, could be at stake on Tuesday when a group of Democratic-led states and the House of Representatives urge a federal appeals court to overturn a Texas judge's ruling that the U.S. healthcare reform law is unconstitutional.

Republicans including President Donald Trump have repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to repeal the ACA since it was passed in 2010.

Texas and the other Republican-led states that have sued to invalidate the law argue that when Congress in 2017 scrapped a penalty against people who didn't have health insurance, lawmakers removed a pillar of the law that was critical to getting young, healthy people to sign up for coverage and keeping premiums affordable.

The fate of former President Barack Obama's health care law, and its coverage and insurance protections for millions of Americans, is again being argued before a federal court.

In December 2018, U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor in Fort Worth, Texas, agreed. Scheduled to hear Tuesday's arguments are 5th Circuit Judges Carolyn Dineen King, Jennifer Walker Elrod and Kurt Engelhardt - two of whom are Republicans.

In December, a Texas-based federal judge agreed with the lawsuit, filed by a coalition of 18 Republican-leaning states with some backing from the Trump administration.

The Republican coalition, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, maintains that the change rendered the mandate itself unconstitutional.

"Together, the Trump administration and the Texas-led coalition risk the health of almost every American, from the young to the elderly, the sick to the gainfully employed", Becerra said.

On Tuesday, attorneys for California and the House of Representatives, which also has joined the suit to defend the law, urged the appellate court to preserve the law, in part because there is no evidence that Congress meant to repeal the whole law when it eliminated the mandate penalty in 2017.

Working to save the law are 20 states, led mostly by Democrats, including California, which has used the law to engineer a dramatic expansion of insurance coverage.

The opposed states argue the law is a cavalier attempt to mandate Americans buy health insurance the government deems suitable and necessary. But Chief Justice John Roberts, joining four liberal justices, said Congress did have the power to impose the tax.

The Justice Department initially argued the mandate was unconstitutional but most of Obamacare could be severed from it. On that list: preventing insurance companies from denying coverage or charging more for pre-existing conditions, and allowing adult children to stay on their parents' health insurance until age 26. Engelhardt also pointedly suggested that the question of whether each piece of the law should survive shouldn't be answered by the judiciary but by Congress.

A three-member panel consisting of judges appointed by Presidents Trump, George W. Bush and Carter will hear the case Tuesday. He has said Congress won't vote on it until after next year's presidential election.

O'Connor's ruling is on hold, pending appeals. But it argued on appeal that rest of the law can not be severed. The House of Representatives intervened after Democrats won control in the November midterm elections, during which many focused their campaigns on defending Obamacare.

"There's nobody in the Senate not in favor of covering pre-existing conditions, nobody", the Kentucky Republican said, adding he thinks it's likely the case will go back to the Supreme Court.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi emphasized the Democratic party's commitment to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) at a news conference today.

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