A federal judge in Texas issued a ruling Friday declaring the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, apparently setting the stage for another hearing on the health care law by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor invalidates what's commonly referred to as Obamacare nationwide, and casts into doubt the survival of the law on the eve of the deadline for tens of millions of Americans to sign up for health care coverage in 2019.
The ruling comes in a lawsuit brought against what was one of the major domestic achievements of the Obama administration. An alliance of 19 Republican attorneys general and a governor led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton challenged the law.
As NPR's Alison Kodjak explained on All Things Considered,
"The lawsuit had to do with whether when Congress last year repealed or eliminated the penalty for not having insurance — it was a tax penalty for people who didn't have insurance — whether that meant the rest of the law didn't apply anymore. The court case argued that all of the pieces of the law were dependent upon each other, so by eliminating the penalty the rest of the law fell apart. The judge agreed with that opinion."
In his 55-page opinion, Judge O'Connor said the debate over the ACA's interlocking provisions is "like watching a slow game of Jenga, each party poking at a different provision to see if the ACA falls."