by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Republicans fear that a federal judge’s decision Friday striking down the Affordable Care Act will put them in a perilous political position and will hand Democrats a powerful line of attack for next Congress and the 2020 elections.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in the Northern District of Texas strikes down the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The decision throws out a range of healthcare provisions, including rules that insurers must cover people with pre-existing conditions, the extension of the Medicaid program to the poor, and coverage for maternity care, mental health, and substance abuse disorders.
While none of these effects would occur right away, as the case goes through the appeals process, it’s a boon to Democrats who are eager to campaign on healthcare and pre-existing illness protections, just as they did throughout the 2018 campaign. Throughout the cycle, Republicans were hammered in television ads for voting for bills that would have made coverage more expensive or out of reach for people with pre-existing conditions, such as cancer or diabetes.
“Republicans now have to answer a set of questions that they wouldn’t have otherwise had to answer,” said one GOP strategist on the political challenges of the ruling. “The ruling may have single-handedly galvanized Democrats on an issue where they play a lot of offense and put Republicans on defense for who knows how long.”