The future of the Affordable Care Act is imperiled once again. Friday, a Texas federal judge ruled the law was unconstitutional. The argument rests on Congress’ recent vote to eliminate the individual mandate for Americans to buy health insurance. Without this key component intact the judge argued that the whole law be thrown out.
Locally, New Jersey residents are required to buy health insurance under a law signed last summer by Gov. Phil Murphy.
The decision came just 24 hours before the deadline to sign up for 2019 health coverage on the federal exchange. In a tweet Friday, President Donald Trump said of the ruling, “Wow, but not surprisingly, ObamaCare was just ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL by a highly respected judge in Texas. Great news for America!”
Monday, Murphy called the ruling “ridiculous” at an unrelated event in Kearny.
“I’m not a lawyer. I’m told it is riddled with inconsistencies. It’s overreaching. I want to make sure everybody realizes if you’re watching – the Affordable Care Act is alive and well, as we stand here, and God willing it will remain so,” said Murphy.
According to reporting by NPR, California’s state attorney general plans to appeal the ruling, with other states likely to join the suit.
If the ruling is upheld, there are significant implications for New Jersey.
“The impact would be devastating because about 900,000 New Jerseyeans rely on the Affordable Care Act for their health coverage now both in Medicaid and the marketplace, so that’s 10 percent of the entire population of New Jersey could lose health care coverage. That’s sort of mind boggling,” said Raymond Castro, director of Health Policy at the left leaning think tank, New Jersey Policy Perspective.
New Jersey Policy perspective calculated that $4.5 billion in federal funding would be lost each year, 3.8 million residents with pre-existing conditions may lose coverage, and hospitals would see an increase of $400 million in increased charity care costs.
Many legal experts anticipate the case reaching the U.S. Supreme Court. For now, the ACA stays in place. Those who have signed up for coverage in 2019 will remain insured.