Judge says Affordable Care Act can remain law while his ruling declaring it unconstitutional is appealed

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By Tim Stelloh

The federal judge who struck down the Affordable Care Act earlier this month issued an order Sunday halting his earlier decision while the case is appealed.

In a filing in U.S. District Court in Texas, Judge Reed O’Connor paused a Dec. 14 ruling that declared President Barack Obama’s signature health care law unconstitutional, saying “many everyday Americans” would face “great uncertainty” while the case winds through federal court.

O’Connor issued the earlier decision after agreeing with a coalition of Republican-leaning states led by Texas.

An insurance agent speaks with a customer shopping for insurance under the Affordable Care Act last year in Miami.Joe Raedle / Getty Images file

Those states sued the federal government in February, arguing the law could no longer stand without an individual mandate — or the penalty Americans faced for not buying insurance. Congress removed that mandate in 2017.

An opposing coalition of Democratic-leaning states, led by California, have defended the law in federal court.

“We’ve always said we’re going to protect the #healthcare of Americans and make clear that the #ACA is the law of the land,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra tweeted after Reed’s order was issued Sunday.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement that his state was eager to defend O’Connor’s earlier ruling.

“We have no quarrel with the district court’s stay, which provides the states with an opportunity to develop plans to address the health care needs of their residents for the day this ruling is ultimately upheld,” Paxton said.

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