Affordable Care Act ruling deserves center stage in presidential election


In ducking its opportunity to rule on the constitutionality of the entire Affordable Care Act, a federal appeals court has done a large favor for President Trump and the Republican Party. But it leaves millions of people in uncertainty and anxiety. It was unnecessary and unethical.

By sending the case back to the district judge in Texas who had ruled against Obamacare, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals virtually guaranteed that it won’t reach the Supreme Court in time for a final decision before the November election.

That lets Trump and his party off the hook, inviting them to duck the issue during the campaign, rather than level with the voters on how — or whether — they would replace what the courts might eventually throw out.

Make no mistake: Trump and the Republicans want the court to trash Obamacare, but not in time for the voters to hold it against them in November. And no matter the potentially drastic, even deadly, consequences for everyone who depends on its coverage.

That’s virtually everyone in America, not just the 11.4 million who obtained health insurance through the Obamacare marketplaces or the 13.6 million who were added to the Medicaid rolls in the 36 states and District of Columbia.

The Affordable Care Act also guarantees private insurance coverage despite preexisting medical conditions such as diabetes; and allows children to remain on parental health plans until they are 26, among other provisions.

Republicans owe it to the people to say how much or how little of Obamacare they would replace if the courts eventually overturn it. Everyone running for office next year, from the president to the Congress to the state legislatures, should also have their answers at the ready.

Health care topped all other issues in an exit poll of voters in the 2018 midterms, which returned the House to Democratic control, and is second in the current campaign only to Trump’s impeachment.

It bears remembering that human lives are at stake in what might seem to be an arcane legal battle over federal jurisprudence.

Also, ours is the only industrialized democracy that does not regard health care as an inalienable human right.

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