- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Trump administration is reminding Americans they can still sign up for Obamacare coverage even though a federal judge said Congress invalidated the law by striking its mandate to hold insurance, starting in 2019.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, presiding in Texas, issued his opinion on the eve of the deadline to sign up for coverage on HealthCare.gov, the federal website serving much of the country.

Seema Verma, administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the web-based marketplace is still open for business through the end of Saturday.

“The recent federal court decision is still moving through the courts, and the exchanges are still open for business and we will continue with open enrollment,” she tweeted late Friday. “There is no impact to current coverage or coverage in a 2019 plan.”

Signups on HealthCare.gov were already scuffling this year. Roughly 550,000 fewer people had signed up on the federal portal heading into the final week, and the law’s supporters were hoping a final push would make up ground.

They’re hoping customers aren’t deterred by the judge’s big ruling out of Fort Worth.

Judge O’Connor says Congress’ decision to zero out the “individual mandate” penalty for shirking insurance means the rest of the law must fall, including its private-insurance subsidies, consumer protections and expansion of Medicaid coverage. The judge did not enjoin the law, however, and the changes to the mandate don’t take effect until 2019.

Blue-state attorneys will seek a stay as they appeal the ruling, setting the stage for a fight before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and a possible showdown before the Supreme Court.

Democrats are reacting furiously to decision and timing of its release by the judge, an appointee of President George W. Bush. They say their support for the lawsuit proves their push to protect people with preexisting conditions during the campaign was a con.

“For ideological reasons, and because many can’t stand that it’s named Obamacare, they are causing millions to feel anxiety and possibly suffer. Shame on them,” Sen. Brian Schatz, Hawaii Democrat, said.

Congressional Republicans said the ruling sets up a lengthy court battle, though also presents the chance for a redo on health reform, after Obamacare boosted premiums in the individual market.

“We have a rare opportunity for truly bipartisan health care reform that protects those with pre-existing conditions, increases transparency and choice, and lowers costs,” said Rep. Greg Walden, Oregon Democrat who helped craft a GOP replacement that passed the House in 2017. “I urge my Democratic colleagues to work with Republicans to finally enact patient-centered reforms to our nation’s health care system.”

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