Updates from the ACA court hearing

Latest 'Obamacare' Court Battle Plays out in New Orleans

Two Republican-appointed members of the three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sharply questioned lawyers for a group of Democratic state attorneys general and the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives defending the Affordable Care Act. "Republicans tried to come up with a replacement plan for 10 years, and they couldn't do it", he says.

The panel is considering an appeal from Democrats, who say a judge in Texas erred by ruling the mandate is unconstitutional and can not be severed from the rest of the law - including its protections for people with preexisting conditions, subsidies for private insurance and expansion of Medicaid.

An appellate ruling declaring Obamacare unconstitutional could prompt an appeal to the US Supreme Court, opening the door for the top court to take up the issue in the middle of the 2020 US presidential election.

Last December, Judge Reed C. O'Connor agreed with the Republicans.

5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Carolyn Dineen King asked no questions Tuesday.

Judge Elrod noted it was impossible to know whether some Republicans saw changes to the mandate, enshrined in the GOP tax-cut bill, as a backdoor way to attack Obamacare.

Beyond the questions surrounding the legal status of the ACA, the intervening states said a judicial nullification of the law would wreak chaos for the nation's healthcare system. The challenge revolves around the congressional decision to effectively eliminate the individual mandate penalty by reducing it to $0 as part of the 2017 tax cut bill.

California's attorney general represents a coalition of mostly Democratic-led states and the District of Columbia seeking to overturn O'Connor's ruling and uphold the law.

The judges focused on whether Obamacare lost its legal justification after Trump in 2017 signed a law that eliminated a tax penalty used to enforce the law's mandate that all Americans buy health insurance. But Chief Justice John Roberts, joining four liberal justices, said Congress did have the power to impose the tax.

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The case could eventually reach the Supreme Court, where conservative justices have previously rejected the argument that Congress could require everyone to buy insurance under the Constitution's interstate commerce clause.

With no tax penalty now in effect, the Texas lawsuit argues, the individual mandate is unconstitutional and the entire law must fall without 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. King was nominated to the appeals court by President Jimmy Carter in 1979.

Judge Engelhardt, a Trump appointee, appeared to sympathetic to the Republicans' argument Tuesday, though bemoaned the court's role in refereeing what appeared to be a political dispute over how much of Obamacare should be left intact.

Repealing the ACA has been a long-standing goal of Trump and Republicans, but they failed to do so in 2017 when the Senate narrowly missed the necessary number of votes.

President Donald Trump campaigned in 2016 on the promise to repeal and replace the ACA.

A key portion of the federal Affordable Care Act that gives protection to people with pre-existing conditions will soon be enshrined in New Hampshire state law. The law's supporters appealed.

"President Trump and Republicans are playing a very risky game with people's lives", Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters on a conference call Monday.

"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.

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