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The Latest Judge Tough questions for ’Obamacare’ backers

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NEW ORLEANS — The Latest on an appeals court hearing on former President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul (all times local):

4:05 p.m.

Attorneys for states hoping to save President Barack Obama’s health care law have been hit with some intense and occasionally skeptical questioning from appellate judges in a New Orleans federal court.

The main issue in Tuesday’s hearing was whether Congress rendered the entire Affordable Care Act unconstitutional when it zeroed out the tax imposed on people who don’t buy health insurance.

The law’s supporters say Congress clearly didn’t want “Obamacare” dismantled when it eliminated the tax in 2017. And they said the tax elimination doesn’t destroy the whole law.

But appellate judges Kurt Engelhardt and Jennifer Walker Elrod both noted the law still says people must buy insurance. They questioned whether that command now violates the Constitution. Engelhardt also suggested Congress, not the courts, should choose which parts of the law should be salvaged.

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1 a.m.

The fate of former President Barack Obama’s health care law, and its coverage and insurance protections for millions of Americans, is again being argued before a federal court.

At issue Tuesday before a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is a federal judge’s December ruling.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor declared that Congress made the law unconstitutional in 2017 by zeroing out the tax levied on people who don’t have insurance.

Without that “individual mandate” to buy insurance, O’Connor said, the entire law falls.

The law’s supporters say it remains constitutional, despite the tax change.

O’Connor’s ruling is on hold, pending appeals.

The case will likely end up before the Supreme Court, which narrowly ruled in favor of the law in 2012.

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