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The Editors

Don’t Ignore the Latest Legal Threat to Obamacare

The public and the Trump administration need to understand what’s at stake in Texas’s challenge.

Pay attention to this.

Pay attention to this.

Photographer: Anna Moneymaker/Bloomberg

Amid all the attention being paid to Medicare for All and other proposals for health-care reform, you might not have noticed that the current system is once again under legal assault. It’s for the courts to decide the merits of this new challenge and to say in due course whether the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — can stand. In the meantime, President Donald Trump’s administration should wake up to what’s at stake for millions of Americans and start speaking up on their behalf.

Last year, a group of states led by Texas began this fresh attack. Their opening was a 2017 revision to the law that set the penalty for defying the “individual mandate” at zero. This arguably unmoored the ACA from its constitutional foundations, as laid down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012. In that ruling, the penalty for defying the mandate to obtain insurance was deemed to be a lawful exercise of Congress’s taxing power; now that the tax is zero, this argument no longer applies, according to the new challenge, so the mandate becomes impermissible under the Constitution’s commerce clause. A federal judge embraced this approach, and ruled the law invalid. The case, Texas v. U.S., is being appealed.