I want to provide a quick update on the Texas v. United States lawsuit we have been following, which is attempting to strike down the Affordable Care Act. On Dec. 14, a United States District Court judge in Fort Worth ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, finding that the ACA's individual mandate is unconstitutional, and that, because the individual mandate cannot be severed from the rest of the ACA, the ACA is unenforceable in its entirety.
CHA and many bipartisan legal experts strongly disagree with the ruling, which will now be appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a motion Dec. 17 seeking clarification that the lower court's order does not change anyone's rights or obligations under the ACA and seeking a stay of the order to preserve the status quo during the appeal.
U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor set deadlines for expedited briefing on the issues raised in Attorney General Becerra's motion over the holidays and, in a Dec. 30 order, granted the stay, allowing the law to remain in effect while his decision is under appeal.
In the lawsuit, 20 Republican-led state attorneys general essentially asked the court to repeal the ACA following the removal of the tax penalty for the ACA's individual mandate by Congress in the December 2017 tax law.
The administration has stated it is not defending key provisions of the ACA threatened by the lawsuit, such as the "guaranteed issue" coverage provision that protects millions of individuals with pre-existing conditions. Becerra joined other state attorneys general to intervene in the case and defend the ACA on behalf of residents of their states. CHA, along with other national hospital and health system associations, submitted a brief in early summer as amici curiae in the case urging the court to reject the states' attempt to repeal the ACA through the judicial system.
CHA will continue to support efforts to defend the many benefits of the ACA and will keep association members informed as the lawsuit progresses. We consider it immoral to take health insurance away from the over 20 million people who have finally received coverage through the ACA. The lower court's decision would also affect all insured Americans by eliminating health security protections like the one that forbids insurers from charging exorbitant prices to cover people with pre-existing conditions and the one that allows young adults under the age of 26 to remain on their parents' policies. The ruling would also strike down the law's elimination of copays for preventive health care.
These protections established in the ACA have made a positive difference in the lives of many Americans. Efforts to undermine or overturn the ACA by elected officials who have a responsibility to act on behalf of their constituents are reckless, irresponsible and pose a major threat to the health of the American people.
Copyright © 2019 by the Catholic Health Association
of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.