A U.S. Court of Appeals on Wednesday ruled that the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate is unconstitutional, but ordered a lower court to take a fresh look at how much of the rest of the law should fall along with it.

What's next: This decision will likely keep the ACA's protections for pre-existing conditions in legal limbo well past the 2020 election.

The intrigue: Republican attorneys general have argued that congressional Republicans’ 2017 tax law, which nullified the ACA's individual mandate, made that policy unconstitutional.

  • A panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals said Wednesday that it agrees.
  • Republicans, and the Trump administration, have said the courts should strike down the entire law along with the mandate.
  • The 5th Circuit wrestled during oral arguments over how much of the law to strike down, ultimately deciding to kick that question back to the lower court for a new hearing. That lower court previously said the entire law would have to go.

Yes, but: The individual mandate is now essentially toothless, and it turned out not to be particularly effective when it was in effect.

  • So if the court is inclined to strike down the mandate alone, letting the rest of the law stand, that would be a much safer proposition than it appeared to be in 2012.

Go deeper: Government funding bill deal will repeal key ACA taxes

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 12,220,166 — Total deaths: 553,438 — Total recoveries — 6,696,632Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 3,111,902 — Total deaths: 133,195 — Total recoveries: 969,111 — Total tested: 38,032,966Map.
  3. Public health: More young people are spreading the virus Cases rise in 33 statesFlorida reports highest single-day death toll since pandemic began.
  4. Science: World Health Organization acknowledges airborne transmission of coronavirus.
  5. 1 🐂 thing: How the world could monitor for potential pandemic animal viruses.
3 hours ago - Podcasts

Inside Joe Biden's economic plan

Joe Biden on Thursday returned to his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, to give his first major speech on economic policy since becoming the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

Axios Re:Cap digs into Biden's plans, how they developed and how they may change, with former U.S. Commerce secretary and campaign surrogate Penny Pritzker.

4 hours ago - World

Countries grapple with whether to lock back down as hotspots emerge

Tokyo in the time of coronavirus. Photo: Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty

Many politicians and public health officials sounded a similar lockdown refrain in the spring: let’s do this right so we only have to do it once.

Reality check: While some countries have thus far managed to keep cases under control after opening up, dozens of countries that had initially turned a corner are now seeing a worrying rebound. They have to decide if and how to return to lockdown — and whether their populations will stand for it.