Appeals court panel grills Democratic defenders on constitutionality of Obamacare

U.S. Senator Bob Casey argues against a federal court appeal which would effectively strip millions of Americans of quality affordable healthcare

It's unclear when the three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel will rule in a case that appears destined for the Supreme Court, which has reviewed the law, and its coverage and insurance protections for millions of Americans, before.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is not expected to decide on Tuesday whether to overturn or uphold the ruling by a federal judge in Texas past year that the entire ACA was unconstitutional.

In 90 minutes of oral arguments scheduled for Tuesday, a Texas-led coalition of 18 plaintiff states is expected to urge the appellate court to uphold U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor's ruling in December that invalidated ACA.

"The Affordable Care Act's individual mandate was a bad policy experiment that fell short of its goals", Duffy said in a statement to NewsChannel 7 on Tuesday. But ending the ACA would also create chaos in other parts of the health care system that were directly or indirectly changed under the law's multitude of provisions - including calorie counts on menus, a pathway for approval of generic copies of expensive biologic drugs and, perhaps most important politically, protections for people who have preexisting conditions. A lower court agreed, but that decision is being appealed by 17 states.

Dawn Burnfin, a Chisholm home health care worker and mother of five children with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, an inherited disease that affects skin and joints, said she couldn't imagine having to pay for hospital visits if her children were denied insurance coverage for their condition.

Last week, the President said he would issue an executive order mandating a policy in which US payments for drugs would be capped at the lowest price paid by either a manufacturer or a developed country.

Employers could return to placing annual and lifetime limits on employees' health care or not providing it at all, and preventative care no longer would be assured by federal subsidies.

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Judge Kurt Engelhardt suggested Tuesday that court precedent strongly connected the requirement to get insurance, known as the "individual mandate", to protected coverage of preexisting conditions. The Texas v. United States case stems from the Republican's 2017 tax cut bill.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives has also been granted intervenor status in the case.

After Trump signed a tax bill passed by a Republican-led Congress that reduced the tax penalty to zero dollars, a coalition of Republican-led states headed by Texas sued, alleging the tax penalty's elimination rendered Obamacare unconstitutional.

If the ruling stands, 20 million people who gained coverage since the law's passage would be without coverage. Caroline Mello Roberson, state director of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League in Nevada, said if the ACA is overturned, many people would suffer.

Justice Department attorney August Flentje, facing questions about the administration's approach, said the government would enforce it until a final decision comes. "If they have their way, millions of Americans could be forced to delay, skip or forego potentially life-saving health care".

But regardless of the end result, the lawsuit - and the potential for it to again reach the Supreme Court - ensures that health care will be a top issue again this election cycle. Without the Affordable Care Act, hundreds of thousands of hardworking Washingtonians will lose access to affordable health care coverage, and many more will face devastating cost increases. Half of Democrats' campaign ads during the midterm elections focused its messaging on health care and the law.

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