What the Obamacare Court Ruling Means for Open Enrollment
When a federal judge in Texas struck down the Affordable Care Act on Friday, ruling that its mandate requiring most people to buy health insurance was unconstitutional, it thrust Obamacare into the spotlight right at the deadline to sign up for next year’s coverage.
Open enrollment was scheduled to end on Saturday in most states, and every year, a surge of people sign up at the last minute.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent out an email to millions of Americans on Saturday trying to allay concerns, and HealthCare.gov displayed a red banner alerting people that the court’s decision would not affect open enrollment.
“Are you covered yet?” HealthCare.gov tweeted on Saturday. “Hurry!”
But, because things were not complicated enough already, you might still have time to enroll depending on where you live. Some states have deadlines in January.
Here is a quick rundown of what happened in Texas and what the ruling means for your open enrollment and beyond.
Why did a Texas judge strike down Obamacare?
In a lawsuit filed this year, a group of Republican governors and state attorneys general challenged the Affordable Care Act, arguing that the requirement that people have health insurance — known as the individual mandate — is unconstitutional, and therefore, so is the entire law.
At issue was whether the individual mandate still compelled people to buy coverage after Congress reduced the tax penalty for people who do not have health insurance to zero dollars. (In 2017, the average tax penalty was $708, according to preliminary data.)
In his ruling, Judge Reed O’Connor of the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Texas said the individual mandate “can no longer be sustained as an exercise of Congress’s tax power.” Judge O’Connor, a George W. Bush appointee, said that he would not “parse the A.C.A.’s provisions one by one,” but that he had to invalidate the whole law.
That does not mean the Affordable Care Act is immediately null. The judge did not issue an injunction to stop federal officials from enforcing the law, and a group of states led by Democrats have promised to appeal the decision.