Federal Judge Issues Stay on ACA Ruling, Legal Challenge Continues

U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor on Sunday issued a stay on his December ruling, allowing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to stand while his judgement undergoes an appeal. Recall, last month Judge O’Connor of Texas struck down the ACA on the grounds that the individual health insurance mandate is unconstitutional and the remaining ACA provisions cannot stand without the individual mandate. In issuing his stay, Judge O’Connor underscored his belief that the ACA cannot stand without the individual mandate but indicated his ruling should not take effect while the case is being appealed. O’Connor also noted in his stay that “many everyday Americans would otherwise face great uncertainty” without the issuance of a stay on his previous ruling, but also stressed that “courts must refrain from resolving policy disputes” created by Congress.

On Thursday, 16 states and the District of Columbia, led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, filed a notice of appeal of O’Connor’s December ruling, which is the first formal step in advancing their legal challenge to the U.S. Court of Appeals 5th Circuit in New Orleans. Becerra underscored the intent of appealing the ACA ruling, indicating in a statement, “Our goal is simple: to stand up for the law of the land – the Affordable Care Act – in order to keep healthcare affordable and accessible for millions of Americans.” While it remains to be seen if the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will overturn Judge O’Connor’s initial December ruling, the matter could eventually become the third significant ACA case to land in the U.S. Supreme Court.