WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, is unconstitutional. But it sent the case back to the trial judge for another look at whether the entire law is invalid or if some parts can survive.
The nature of the decision and the fact that it comes so late in the year make it highly unlikely that the Supreme Court will weigh in on the fate of Obamacare during its current term, which ends in June.
“Anything is possible, but it would require extraordinary effort,” said Tom Goldstein, a Washington lawyer who argues frequently before the Supreme Court.
By a 2-1 vote, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans agreed with Texas and 17 other red states that the key part of the law is unconstitutional — the provision that requires all Americans to buy insurance or pay a penalty on their income tax. The Supreme Court upheld the law in 2012, ruling that it was a legitimate exercise of Congress’s taxing authority.