In a court case filed by Texas and 19 other states, the Justice Department said in a brief on Thursday that the requirement for people to have insurance — the individual mandate — was unconstitutional.

If that argument is accepted by the federal court, it could eviscerate major parts of the Affordable Care Act that remain in place.

A definitive court ruling could be months away and appeals of any decision could take many more months, during which the law is likely to stay in effect.

Two self-employed Texans, John Nantz and Neill Hurley, have leading roles in the latest legal effort to kill Obamacare.

The men are the named plaintiffs in a lawsuit by 20 states that argues Congress fatally undercut the law when it repealed the individual mandate penalty in tax cut legislation. Nantz and Hurley say the mandate compels them to buy costly insurance that doesn’t fit their needs — even though the financial penalty for not complying is disappearing next year.

. . .

New numbers on healthcare costs highlight, yet again, how much of a dereliction of duty it will be if congressional Republicans don’t take another crack this year at replacing Obamacare.

The Congressional Budget Office reported on Wednesday that premiums for the basic Obamacare plan will rise 15 percent next year, despite overall price inflation in the rest of the economy remaining at or below 2 percent.

The huge price hikes will not be a one-time thing, either. “Going forward, the agency projects premiums will increase an average of 10% a year between 2019 and 2023 and then 5% annually between 2024 and 2028,” reported CNN.

. . .

Alex Azar will soon make his most consequential decision as health and human services secretary. President Trump has asked HHS to expand health-insurance protections in a way that could make coverage more affordable and improve the outlook for Obama Care’s risk pools. Whether Mr. Azar will oblige is uncertain. Some officials don’t understand that Mr. Trump’s request would expand consumer protections, or mistakenly believe HHS lacks the authority to grant it.

The need for action is clear, as ObamaCare premiums keep skyrocketing. Rate hikes as high as 91% will hit many consumers just before Election Day. Maryland insurance commissioner Al Redmer warns ObamaCare is in “a death spiral.”

. . .

A group of outside conservative groups developing a plan to repeal Obamacare said they would ensure the final product does not allow taxpayer funding to go toward covering abortions.

“When our plan is released, it will include strong pro-life priorities as well as recommendations that focus on providing Americans relief from Obamacare’s high costs and lack of choice while helping to heal the broken private small-group and individual insurance markets,” said Marie Fishpaw, Heritage’s director of domestic policy studies, in a statement.

. . .

A group of Republicans and advocacy groups will soon release a proposal intended to spark another push to repeal the Affordable Care Act, resurrecting a potentially volatile issue in the months before the November midterm elections.

The proposal to topple the Obama-era health law and replace it with a plan that would give states more control over health policy is the result of eight months of behind-the-scenes work by a coalition of conservative groups.

. . .

A nascent effort to resurrect Obamacare repeal this year in the Senate is running into the same roadblock that stymied efforts last year: not enough GOP support.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he is working on a new repeal bill that could come out in “hopefully the coming weeks, not months.” Republicans could be blamed for premium increases on Obamacare’s exchanges in 2019 if they don’t act to repeal the law, he said.

. . .

As unlikely as it seems that congressional GOP leaders will try once again to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, both Republican and Democratic political observers say there’s a small chance they refuse to rule it out.

Why? Conservatives remain furious that last year’s Obamacare repeal effort failed. And with midterm elections looming, the GOP needs to fire up right-wing voters to help maintain control of Congress.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he hopes to revive a new version of the repeal bill he co-sponsored with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) that narrowly failed in the Senate last fall. It’s being developed by the Heritage Foundation and the Galen Institute, working with former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

. . .

Almost no one saw it coming.

In 2012, Chief Justice John Roberts famously ruled the Affordable Care Act’s provision mandating most people purchase health insurance or else pay a fine constitutional on the basis that Congress has the authority to tax individuals, and the so-called Obamacare “fine” is effectively a tax.

As the now-deceased Justice Antonin Scalia pointed out in his dissenting opinion, in classifying the Obamacare penalty as a “tax,” Roberts ignored history, the language of the healthcare law, statements made by the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress, and common sense. (The obvious difference between a fine and a tax is that the purpose of a tax is to raise revenue, not to force people to behave in a particular way.)

. . .

Yes. They could do it. But only if they accept two principles:

  1. All the Obamacare money must be used for health care – it can’t be used to cut taxes for the rich or for special interests.
  2. There must be a clear and sustainable path to lower premiums and better access to care.

. . .