Federal Court Strikes Down Vital Component of Obamacare as Unconstitutional

WASHINGTON – A U.S. appeals court ruled on Wednesday that a component of the Obamacare law is unconstitutional but stopped short of declaring that the rest of the landmark 2010 healthcare statute must also be struck down.

The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on a 2-1 vote that the law’s individual mandate that directed Americans to obtain health insurance – a provision already gutted by Republican-backed legislation passed in Congress – was unlawful.

But the court avoided answering the key question of whether the rest of the law can remain in place, instead sending the case back to a district court judge for further analysis.

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The blow to Obamacare followed the U.S. government’s announcement on Monday that the deadline for signing-up for 2020 insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act had been extended by three days to Dec. 18 to accommodate those who experienced issues while attempting to enroll.

There were website glitches and call center delays reported on Sunday, the earlier deadline for the 2020 open enrollment, and the extension should help the final enrollment tally, said Evercore ISI analyst Michael Newshel.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services runs enrollment for insurance plans created by the ACA, often called Obamacare, through the online marketplace, HealthCare.gov, for 38 states.

The problems with the site this week echoed the numerous issues reported by users when Obamacare first launched in Oct. 2013.

Users on the site said then they faced slow load times, error messages and crashes.

Many pundits characterized HealthCare.gov’s 2013 launch as an unmitigated “disaster.”

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(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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