Dec. 31 (UPI) -- A federal judge who this month declared the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional ruled Sunday the controversial healthcare law can remain in effect as it goes through the appeals process.
Judge Reed O'Connor of U.S. District Court in Northern Texas wrote in his ruling Sunday that although he affirms his Dec. 14 ruling striking down the ACA, the law will stand until the matter is settled in appellate courts. He said many Americans would have faced "great uncertainty" if his ruling was enacted immediately.
O'Connor said in his prior ruling the ACA cannot continue without the individual mandate that Congress eliminated last year, at the insistence of President Donald Trump. The mandate required all tax-paying Americans to purchase medical insurance, either through their employer or the ACA, as a means to make the system work.
Congressional Republicans essentially annulled the mandate last year when they overhauled the U.S. tax code, removing the penalty for not maintaining health coverage. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ACA in 2012, saying the mandate was constitutional because it was covered by Congress' power to levy taxes.
O'Connor's original ruling was criticized even by some conservative legal scholars, who suggested the judge may have misread the law and acted himself as a judicial activist.
"I've been very critical of Judge O'Connor's severability analysis, but the standing analysis in these opinions may be even worse -- and that's saying something," wrote Jonathan Adler, a Case Western Reserve University law professor who led a separate ACA challenge. "I will be gobsmacked if O'Connor's opinion survives review in the Fifth Circuit."
Plaintiffs that included 20 states argued in court that the ACA cannot exist without the individual mandate. Seventeen other states defending the ACA, have vowed to appeal O'Connor's ruling.