WASHINGTON: A federal judge in Texas Friday struck down the entire Affordable Care Act, popular as Obamacare, ruling that the health-care law's individual coverage mandate was "unconstitutional", handing a major political victory to US President Donald Trump who has long been seeking its end.
The ruling was over a lawsuit filed this year by a group of Republican governors and state attorneys general. It came on the eve of the Saturday deadline for Americans to sign up for coverage in the federal insurance exchange created under the law.
In a ruling, that is likely to be challenged and was immediately opposed by the Democrats, District Court Judge Reed O'Connor ruled that the individual mandate of Affordable Care Act requiring people to have health insurance "can no longer be sustained as an exercise of Congress's tax power".
Judge O'Connor, a George W Bush appointee, said that "the individual mandate is unconstitutional" and because the mandate cannot be separated from the rest of the law, Obamacare is invalid.
"Wow, but not surprisingly, ObamaCare was just ruled unconstitutional by a highly respected judge in Texas. Great news for America!" Trump exclaimed on twitter.
Repealing and replacing Obamacare was Trump's election promise and he has been working on this in the first two years of his administration.
"As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an unconstitutional disaster! Now Congress must pass a strong law that provides great healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions. Mitch and Nancy, get it done!" Trump said.
The Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act as constitutional in 2012 and 2015.
The opposition Democrats were quick to raise their voice against the ruling by the federal district judge.
"Tonight's district court ruling exposes the monstrous endgame of Republicans all-out assault on people with pre-existing conditions and Americans' access to affordable health care," said House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi, a top Democratic leader.
The Republicans tried and failed to destroy the Affordable Care Act and protections for pre-existing conditions.
Then, in the midterm election, the American people delivered a record-breaking margin of almost 10 million votes against House Republicans' vile assault on health care, she said.
"Now, the district court ruling in Republicans' lawsuit seeks to subvert the will of the American people and sow chaos in the final day of HealthCare.gov open enrolment," Pelosi said.
"While the district court's absurd ruling will be immediately appealed, Republicans are fully responsible for this cruel decision and for the fear they have struck into millions of families across America who are now in danger of losing their health coverage," Pelosi said.
After repeatedly trying and failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in Congress, Trump and his Republican allies have turned to right-wing activist judges to try to overturn this vital law, alleged Democratic Senator Dick Durbin.
"Instead of working to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions and ensure that all American families have choices when it comes to affordable, quality health care coverage, the Trump Administration has made it their mission for two years to destroy the law that has given 20 million Americans quality, affordable health insurance," he said.
"Today's decision by a district court judge backed by President Trump is politics at its worst and threatens access to care for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions," Durbin said.
The case against the ACA was brought by 20 Republican state attorneys general and governors, as well as two individuals.
It revolves around Congress effectively eliminating the individual mandate penalty by reducing it to USD 0 as part of the 2017 tax cut bill. The mandate requires nearly all Americans to get health insurance or pay a penalty.