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by | Dec 15, 2018 | Breaking News, Business, Current Events, Government, Health, News, Politics | 0 comments

The future of the Affordable Care Act might be hanging in the balance thanks to a federal judge in Texas, but Obamacare coverage isn’t over just yet.

People can still enroll in an Obamacare health insurance plan for 2019, but the last day to sign up is at hand: by midnight Pacific time Saturday or by 3 a.m. Eastern time Sunday.

Until then, you can enroll for coverage by visiting here.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor dealt a serious blow to Obamacare on Friday, ruling that the 2010 Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional without the penalties for the law’s individual mandate, the penalty fee on those who chose to remain uninsured that was eliminated as part of the tax-cut law President Donald Trump signed earlier this year.

While O’Connor’s ruling marks an uncertain moment for the millions of people who rely on Obamacare for health insurance coverage, it won’t immediately take effect.

A coalition of Democratic state attorneys has vowed to appeal a late-Friday decision by a federal judge in Texas to strike down the entire ACA, also known as Obamacare, as unconstitutional.

About 11.8 million Americans used Obamacare to enroll in health coverage this year.

Xavier Becerra, attorney general of California, said the ruling was “an assault on 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, on the 20 million Americans who rely on the ACA for healthcare, and on America’s faithful progress toward affordable healthcare for all Americans”.

Becerra added Democrats would “continue to fight in court for the health and wellbeing of Americans”.

Given the looming appeal, the White House has said it expects the issue to again be decided by the supreme court, which has already upheld Obamacare twice since it was enacted in 2010.

The Trump administration welcomed the ruling by the Texas judge Reed O’Connor but added that Congress should act to preserve protections for people with pre-existing conditions, which would be swept away if Obamacare was dissolved.

The Trump administration official who oversees the exchanges confirmed Friday that the federal government will continue to enforce the Affordable Care Act while O’Connor’s ruling is being appealed. “The recent federal court decision is still moving through the courts, and the exchanges are still open for business and we will continue with open enrollment. There is no impact to current coverage or coverage in a 2019 plan,” Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, wrote on Twitter.

The issue is politically fraught for the administration. Democrats managed to gain control of the House of Representatives in the November midterms after focusing on concerns over healthcare coverage.

The ACA bars insurers from refusing to cover someone due to a past medical condition and sets up exchanges on which people can purchase plans. The American Medical Association has warned any repeal of the system would “destabilize health insurance coverage”.

“No one wants to go back to the days of 20% of the population uninsured and fewer patient protections, but this decision will move us in that direction,” said Barbara McAneny, president of the AMA.

In 2010, there were more than 48 million Americans without healthcare coverage, a number that fell by more than 20 million by 2016. There was a slight uptick in the uninsured population last year, however, according an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Repealing the ACA became a defining issue for Republicans, although they were unable to do so when they held both branches of Congress following a sustained outcry over the expected harmful consequences of doing so. Donald Trump has called the ACA a “disaster” and said last year Republicans should “let Obamacare fail”.

As part of the 2017 tax bill, Republicans did manage to dismantle the individual mandate, which requires people get health coverage or face a penalty. Judge O’Connor’s 55-page ruling argues this action “sawed off the last leg” that Obamacare stood on, making it unconstitutional.

Several legal experts have been baffled by the decision. “This is insanity in print, and it will not stand up on appeal,” tweeted Nicholas Bagley, an expert in health law at the University of Michigan Law School.

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