SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, leading a coalition of 21 attorneys general, today filed an opening brief in Texas v. U.S., defending the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the healthcare of tens of millions of Americans. Today’s brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, argues that every provision of the ACA remains valid. It also details the life-threatening harm that declaring the ACA invalid would have on the tens of millions of people who rely on it for access to high-quality, affordable healthcare, as well as the broader damage that such a ruling would inflict on the nation’s healthcare system.
“This lawsuit is as dangerous as it is reckless. It threatens the healthcare of tens of millions of Americans across the country – from California to Kentucky and all the way to Maine,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The Affordable Care Act is an integral part of our healthcare system. For the last nine years, it has ensured that seniors, young adults, women, children and working families have access to high-quality affordable care. It has prevented insurance companies from discriminating against 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions. Because no American should fear losing healthcare, we will defend the ACA every step of the way.”
The plaintiffs, two individuals and 18 States led by Texas, filed this lawsuit in February 2018, challenging one provision of the Affordable Care Act—the requirement that individuals maintain health insurance or pay a tax. Texas’ lawsuit came after Congress reduced that tax to zero dollars in December 2017. Opponents of the ACA had attempted and failed to repeal the ACA over 70 times since its instatement. The plaintiffs argued that this reduction in the tax made the minimum coverage provision unconstitutional. They further argued that the rest of the ACA could not be “severed” from that provision, so the entire Act must be struck down.
On December 14, 2018, Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas issued his decision agreeing with the plaintiffs. In response, Attorney General Becerra and his coalition of attorneys general filed a motion to stay the effect of that decision and to expedite resolution of this case. The District Court granted that motion on December 30, 2018. On January 3, 2019, the coalition formally filed a notice of appeal in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the District Court’s December 14 ruling.
Today’s filing continues the legal defense of the ACA. In their brief, the Attorneys General argue that the plaintiffs do not have standing to challenge the individual mandate provision, because the individual plaintiffs are not injured by a provision that now offers a lawful choice between buying insurance and paying a zero-dollar tax. The Attorneys General further argue that the state plaintiffs also lack standing, because there is no evidence that the amended provision will require them to spend more money. Lastly, the District Court wrongly concluded that the individual mandate provision was unconstitutional, and even if it were, there would be no legal basis for also declaring the rest of the ACA invalid—including its provisions expanding Medicaid, reforming Medicare, and providing protections to individuals with pre-existing health conditions.
The brief lays out the consequences of the District Court’s decision, which would wreak havoc on the entire American healthcare system and risk lives in every state. If affirmed, the District Court’s decision would affect nearly every American, including:
133 million Americans, including 17 million kids, with pre-existing health conditions.
Young adults under 26 years of age, who are covered under a parent’s health plan.
More than 12 million Americans who received coverage through Medicaid expansion.
12 million seniors who receive a Medicare benefit to afford prescription drugs.
Working families who rely on tax credits and employer-sponsored plans to afford insurance.