Federal judge dismisses Maryland's Obamacare suit

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A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by the state of Maryland seeking a ruling that the Affordable Care Act is lawful even without the tax penalty once tied to it.

The decision has no immediate impact on the law, commonly known as Obamacare. In a separate case that’s now on appeal, a Texas judge in December agreed with a coalition of Republican states that President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare overhaul should be scrapped because Congress removed the penalty for not having insurance.

U.S. District Judge Ellen Hollander on Friday rejected the suit in a 47-page decision, saying the claims are speculative and that the alleged harms to the state "flow from concerns about a decision that the Trump administration has not made and may never make."

"The president’s profound disdain for the ACA cannot be seriously disputed," she said. Yet there’s no “plausible inference” at this point that the administration “will cease enforcement of part or all of the ACA."

The Texas judge added uncertainty to the U.S. healthcare system and strengthened the divide between Democrats who have fought to keep the law in place and Republicans who have sought to do away with the act. The judge put his ruling on hold until the appeal is resolved, and the White House said it will enforce the ACA until then.

The Maryland case had attracted attention after the state sought to disqualify Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker from participating because he wasn’t confirmed by the Senate.

Hollander said she may allow Maryland to bring the suit later on.

"We will resume this litigation immediately if the president breaks his promise of continued enforcement or when the stay of the Texas court’s decision is lifted," Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said in a statement.

The case is Maryland v U.S., 18-cv-2849, U.S. District Court, District of Maryland.

Bloomberg News