The case could bring broad and long-lasting implications for a healthcare industry that has spent most of the past decade reorienting itself around the ACA's requirements.
After putting the case on hold during the federal government's partial shutdown, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals resumed proceedings Tuesday in a legal dispute over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor in Fort Worth, Texas, ruled last month that the ACA's individual mandate was rendered unconstitutional by Congress zeroing out its tax penalty. Since the rest of the sprawling legislation hinges on the mandate, the entire ACA is invalid, O'Connor ruled. He stayed his judgment, pending appeal.
Now the Fifth Circuit is reviewing the decision, weighing arguments from not only the Texas-led coalition of Republican state officials suing to overturn the law and the U.S. Department of Justice defending parts of it but also from a California-led coalition of Democratic state attorneys general stepping in to defend the Obama administration's signature healthcare policy.
What's more, Democrats who took control this month of the U.S. House of Representatives have asked that their chamber, too, be allowed to intervene in defense of the ACA, after a midterm election in which the ACA's preexisting condition protections featured prominently.
"By any measure, the exceptional circumstances presented here require recognition of the right of the House to intervene in this Court order to defend the constitutionality of the federal statute at issue," attorneys for the House wrote.
The case, which the White House has said it expects to ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, could bring broad and long-lasting implications for the U.S. healthcare industry, which has spent most of the past decade reorienting itself around the ACA's requirements.
Circuit Court Judge Leslie H. Southwick lifted the Fifth Circuit's stay Tuesday afternoon. The parties have until February 8 to respond to the House's motion to intervene.
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Steven Porter is an associate content manager and Strategy editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.