A three-judge panel of the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Tuesday began the process of considering a lower court’s decision that found the bitterly contested law unconstitutional, Presstv Reported.
Two Republican-appointed judges on the panel appeared sympathetic to Republican efforts to overturn Obamacare, expressing skepticism to Democratic calls to overturn the ruling of a federal judge in Texas who found the landmark US healthcare reform law unconstitutional.
The Republican-appointed judges sharply questioned lawyers for a group of Democratic state attorneys general and the Democratic-led US House of Representatives defending Obamacare.
The court's decision is not expected for several months, but once made, its outcome will apply to all states. It is also expected to be appealed to the US Supreme Court.
US District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth, Texas, ruled last year that Obamacare was unconstitutional based on its mandate requiring that people buy health insurance.
If the appeal court upholds the lower court’s decision, millions of Americans, many of them sickly or lower income individuals, would be in danger of losing their health care coverage.
The high-stakes case is likely to end up before the Supreme Court sometime next year and could play a major role in the 2020 US presidential election campaign.
Obamacare, formally called the Affordable Care Act, has insured tens of millions of Americans and was one of the most consequential healthcare measures in US history.
At the heart of the law was a mandate requiring Americans to buy health insurance if they did not already have it, or face a tax penalty.
The US Congress eliminated the penalty for people who failed to sign up, and the three judges must decide whether that change invalidates the whole law.
US President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans in Congress have unsuccessfully attempted to overturn Obamacare. Trump campaigned on the promise to repeal the law.