Texas federal judge Reed O'Connor declared the Affordable Care Act invalid in a December 2018 decision that is notable but, ultimately, will likely have no impact on employers' obligations under the ACA. I'd be remiss if I didn't use this opportunity to engage in my new favorite hobby: educating employers about the ACA with the help of random southern phrases I found on Google.
Judge O'Connor demonstrated an impressive amount of gumption by declaring the ACA invalid but, somewhat surprisingly, did not issue an injunction barring its enforcement, meaning the ruling does not attempt to immediately stop the federal government from enforcing the ACA. One presumes he was fixin' to maintain the legal status quo while the decision works its way through the appeals process. So, what does this mean for employers?
For now, not much. The Trump Administration issued a statement following the decision, available at www.hhs.gov/about/news/2018/12/17/statement-from-the-department-of-health-and-human-services-on-texas-v-azar.html, indicating that the HHS "will continue administering and enforcing all aspects of the ACA as it had before the court issued its decision." Put another way, the HHS will continue enforcing the ACA against employers and individuals who fail to comply with the employer/individual mandates, bless their hearts.
In the future, the decision could amount to much more than a hill of beans given that it might end the ACA as we know it. Of course, this would be true only if the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals does not tell Judge O'Connor to hush his mouth - and most legal scholars familiar with the Fifth Circuit expect them to do just that. This is, after all, not their first rodeo.
Questions? Please contact Wessels Sherman Attorney Peter E. Hansen at (630) 377-1554, or email [email protected].