Republican Gov. Matt Bevin shakes hands with Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear before one of Bevin’s State of the Commonwealth speeches. (AP photo by Timothy Easley)
A federal judge in Texas has ruled the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, making likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will get its third chance to strike down the 2010 law widely known as Obamacare. Pending an appeal, the law remains in place.
The ruling sparked sharp objections from supporters of the law, including Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, who said on Twitter Saturday, “I will lead the fight to overturn Friday night’s ruling from Texas that could eliminate health care coverage for more than 1.3 million Kentuckians and which would cost our state more than $50 billion” in federal health-insurance payments.
Beshear scheduled a news conference for 10 a.m. Monday to give more details of his plans. The release announcing the event said the ruling “jeopardizes key ACA provisions by allowing insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, take away seniors’ prescription drug discounts and charge women more for health care coverage. News conference will be livestreamed via Beshear’s YouTube Channel.”
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled in a lawsuit by 18 Republican attorneys general, which argued that the law is unconstitutional because the 2017 tax cut passed by Congress repealed the tax penalty for not having health insurance, and the 2012 Supreme Court ruling upholding the law said the rule was constitutional exercise of the taxing power of Congress.
Beshear is among 16 Democratic attorneys general who intervened to defend the law after President Trump’s Justice Department did not. He is the only one on the ballot next year, as one of the candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor in the May 21 primary election. The lead spokesman for the Democratic AGs has been Xavier Becerra of California, who will be up for re-election in 2020.
Gov. Matt Bevin, a critic of the law and Beshear (the feelings are mutual), is likely to be the Republican nominee for governor. His predecessor, Democrat Steve Beshear, is the attorney general’s father and an outspoken advocate of the law — which he embraced by expanding the state Medicaid program under its provisions.
“America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s main trade group, sought to reassure consumers that their health coverage would remain ‘strong and stable’ while the ruling is appealed,” reports Amy Goldstein of The Washington Post. The lobbying group called the ruling “misguided and wrong,” and the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association said likewise.
“Since the lawsuit was filed in January, many health-law specialists have viewed its logic as weak but nevertheless have regarded the case as the greatest looming legal threat to the 2010 law, which has been on the GOP’s whipping post ever since and assailed repeatedly in the courts,” Goldstein reports.