Analysis of the latest Obamacare court ruling

Robert VerBruggen writes at National Review Online about the latest court to consider the Affordable Care Act’s future.

The main takeaway is that the court punted on the key issue, and the case will probably continue for a long time before it’s finally resolved. …

… When Congress repealed Obamacare’s individual mandate, what it technically did was reduce the penalty to $0. What the law says now is, basically, “You must buy insurance, and if you don’t, you shall receive the punishment of a $0 penalty. That’ll teach you!” Obviously, no one actually thinks the mandate means anything with a $0 penalty; the old language was left in thanks to some arcane procedural rules in the Senate (regarding the “reconciliation” process). …

… Put it all together and you get the lawsuit’s argument: The mandate was legal only because it was a tax; a mandate of $0 doesn’t collect any money and therefore can’t be a tax; and since the mandate is a crucial part of Obamacare, it can’t be “severed” from the rest of the law, and the entire thing has to be struck down. …

… A district court, however, sided with the red states and individuals suing to kill Obamacare, and the issue landed at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The opinion addresses several issues. It concludes that the plaintiffs have standing to sue, and that the mandate is indeed unconstitutional if it doesn’t raise money. But on the key question — whether the mandate can be severed from the rest of the law — the court just punts the issue back down to the lower court.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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