HARRISBURG — In the wake of Friday’s decision by a federal court judge in Texas on the Affordable Care Act, the Office of Attorney General Josh Shapiro is offering guidance on what the ruling holds, what the impact is for Pennsylvanians, and what may happen next in this important case.

Q: What did the Court’s ruling say?

A: In a case filed by plaintiffs, Texas Attorney General and 19 other Republican attorneys general and other officials, U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor ruled that the entire Affordable Care Act is invalid and should be struck down.

O’Connor’s decision granted summary judgment to the lawsuit’s plaintiffs — but it did not grant an injunction, as the plaintiffs had asked for.

As part of a tax overhaul a year ago, Congressional Republicans had pushed through a change in which the ACA penalty to individuals for not having health insurance will be eliminated, starting in January. The Texas lawsuit argued that, with the penalty gone, the individual mandate could no longer be characterized as a tax, so it was unconstitutional.

In his opinion, O’Connor ruled that the ACA’s individual mandate is unconstitutional, saying it “can no longer be fairly read as an exercise of Congress’ tax power,” and then ruled that the remainder of the ACA could not be severed from the individual mandate.

Q: Why can Pennsylvania continue to enforce the ACA’s protections, since a court struck down the law?

A: The Office of Attorney General Shapiro made the decision not to intervene in this lawsuit because it did not want Pennsylvania to be bound by this expected unfavorable court ruling in a way that would jeopardize coverage for Pennsylvanians for pre-existing conditions, he said.

Ordinarily, a judge hearing a lawsuit only has the power to issue rulings that are binding on the parties to the suit. This case is no exception. Here, the parties to the lawsuit are plaintiff States that sued to invalidate the ACA, the federal government, the States that intervened to defend the law, and two individuals. Pennsylvania is not a party to the suit.

When a federal law is challenged in court, an order that binds the federal government usually prevents the law from being enforced anywhere, because the federal government is primarily responsible for carrying out federal law. However, this situation is different from other cases.

The states have the legal authority to enforce many of the key provisions of the ACA, including, most importantly, protections for people with preexisting conditions.

Pennsylvania has exercised its right to enforce these provisions and requires insurers in the commonwealth to comply with these legal requirements. Because Pennsylvania is not a party to this lawsuit, the judge’s decision cannot prevent Pennsylvania from continuing to enforce these protections.

Q: What does this mean for Pennsylvanians’ coverage under the Affordable Care Act right now?

A: Well in advance of this decision, Attorney General Shapiro and his legal team worked with Gov. Wolf and the Pennsylvania Insurance Department to ensure that the ACA’s protections would continue to be enforced in the commonwealth, no matter what the judge decided.

The Trump Administration has also confirmed this ruling will have no immediate effect on enforcement of the Affordable Care Act. The White House issued a statement Friday night saying: “We expect this ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court. Pending the appeal process, the law remains in place.”

The federal government’s website for the ACA, www.healthcare.gov, had an alert on its site Saturday morning, stating: “Court’s decision does not affect this season’s open enrollment.”

In addition, the Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services stated on social media Friday evening: “The recent federal court decision is still moving through the courts, and the exchanges are still open for business and we will continue with open enrollment. There is no impact to current coverage or coverage in a 2019 plan.”

The deadline to sign up for coverage during open enrollment was midnight Saturday.

(2) comments

CoalCountry1

Schreff is right. The country is heading toward bankruptcy. NOT because of overspending, but rather due to the massive tax breaks the republicans gifted to America’s wealthiest and highest earning individuals and corporations. WHY anyone in coal country would approve of and back the Republicans is beyond comprehension as very very little of those tax cuts are coming to northumberland county.

Schreff

The subject of Obamacare is the most frequently used Fake News falsehood and this is just another example. First, the background is our health system is quite generous and has few holes in coverage. Yes, there are horror stories being used by Fake News but this will always be the case. Does anyone really believe that one political party would be stupid enough to take away coverage from the uninsured? Politicians want to be re-elected and this is surefire political suicide. In truth, we now have a basic system of socialized medicine while both Medicare and Medicaid has been proven to be unsustainable in their present forms. Let us look at the unfunded liabilities which are over $ 100 trillion dollars. In truth we should call our welfare system bankrupt and address these issues not hoggishly scream for more. Silly are the promised lies of Obamacare and the radical far left shouts for Medicare for All when Medicare is now broke. Think about socialism being promoted by the far left folks and research the affordability and success of socialism. If we now have trillion dollar deficits and hundreds of trillion of dollar debt and unfunded liabilities, how long could our Country last if we had Medicare for all, free collage for all when our present quality of our education system is failing, forgiveness of student loans, bailouts for banks and companies, a Federal Reserve who, under Obama, kept interest rates artificially low, more free social programs, free abortions and free care for illegal aliens. How many more illegal and legal immigrants can this Country absorb if everything is free. In order for this Nation to survive we must work and contribute to the productivity of our Nation. These are very important issues in which everyone has the responsibility to do what is right for our kid's kids and beyond. If not, there will be no Nation resembling the United States for future generation to worry about.

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