Attorneys General Schneiderman And Becerra, Governor Cuomo Announce Motion To Intervene In Critical Affordable Care Act Case Pending In D.C. Circuit – Seeking To Protect Millions Of Americans' Access To Affordable Health Insurance

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

May 18, 2017

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18 Attorneys General Intervene In House v. Price To Ensure Effective Defense Of Affordable Care Act (ACA)

In NY Alone, 730,000 New Yorkers Rely On $900 Million In Cost-Sharing Reduction Payments

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, joined by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, today took legal action to protect health care access for millions of Americans - including hundreds of thousands of low-income New Yorkers. Leading a coalition of 18 Attorneys General, Schneiderman and Becerra moved to intervene in the ongoing appeal of a lawsuit filed by House Republicans that undercuts the affordability of health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The case, House of Representatives v. Price, is a legal challenge brought by the Republican-majority House of Representatives to block billions of dollars in Affordable Care Act subsidies that reduce co-payments, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs for low-income Americans. These payments, known as cost-sharing reductions, are specifically required by the Affordable Care Act. Experts predict that simply the threat to end this funding could destabilize the healthcare market and increase premiums by as much as 21 percent.

"Millions of families across the country - including hundreds of thousands right here in New York - rely on these subsidies for their basic health care. We're talking about people's lives – and for President Trump and the Republicans to use them as pawns in a political game is simply unconscionable," said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. "No family should have to choose between protecting their child's health and putting a roof over their heads. That's why we're taking legal action now, and I won't stop fighting to protect New Yorkers' right to affordable, quality health care."

"No parent should worry if they can afford to take their child to a doctor or hospital,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “President Trump’s unpredictable behavior and lack of defense of the healthcare coverage of millions of Americans under the ACA threatens to resurrect those fears of every parent. Here in California, more than 5 million people now receive quality, affordable health care, many for the first time. No one wants to return to the days when a child was denied care because of a preexisting condition, when a woman was charged more than a man for the same health care plan, when you needed care the most and found you were capped at your lifetime limit. My fellow attorneys general and I seek to intervene in House v. Price to defend each of these Americans.”

“Every man, woman and child deserves access to affordable health care. As millions of Americans face the prospect of losing their health care coverage, it is critical that we stand together to protect this basic right,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “The actions of the federal government are a direct assault on New York and our values, and we will do everything in our power to stand up to the ultra-conservative agenda and ensure that all New Yorkers continue to receive the affordable, high quality care they deserve.” 

The motion to intervene is supported by the affidavits of the New York State Department of Health, which administers the State's Affordable Care Act Exchanges, and the Department of Financial Services, which regulates state insurance markets. Taken together, the affidavits establish the many ways the Trump Administration's failure to pay the cost-sharing reductions will damage insurance markets, disrupt insurance coverage across the state, and negatively impact New York State's ability to offer affordable healthcare to its residents.

Since the inception of the ACA, the number of New Yorkers without health insurance has fallen from 10% of the population in 2013 to 5% in 2016, a historic low.  In New York alone, the state offered roughly 730,000 residents $900 million in cost-sharing reduction payments in 2017, principally through the Essential Plan, which is administered by the State with the assistance of private insurers. 

Over the last several months, the Trump Administration (including President Trump himself) has threatened to stop cost-sharing payments and – along with the Republican-majority House of Representatives – has put the federal government’s appeal of the legal challenge on hold. 

The resulting uncertainty in the insurance markets necessitated action by the States, which issue health plans, administer health insurance markets, and approve insurance rates. The Attorneys General are seeking to intervene in this case to protect low-income residents in their states, as well as the States themselves. 

The motion to intervene, filed today, was brought on behalf of individual States and was signed by a total of 18 Attorneys General: New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.

The motion to intervene argues that the States have a concrete interest in the litigation and that circumstances required action to intervene on appeal. Specifically, the States’ motion argues that the District Court’s ruling, if it stays in place, will result in direct financial loss to some of the States, harm consumers, increase the number of uninsured, create additional uncertainty in the health insurance markets, and cause difficulty for State rate approval processes. The States’ motion further argues that the Administration’s various threats about whether this funding will continue and the President’s own comments show that the States cannot rely on the Administration to defend this funding.

Click here to read the motion to intervene.

In House of Representatives v. Price, the House of Representatives, controlled by a Republican majority, challenged billions of dollars in legally-required payments under the Affordable Care Act.  These payments, which total $9 billion in 2017 and are expected to rise to $16 billion by 2026, are required by the Affordable Care Act to reduce low-income consumers’ co-payments, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs.

A District Court Judge ruled that the Republican-majority House of Representatives has standing to bring this lawsuit, a ruling that the Obama Administration contested and that the States filing today intend to contest as well. That Court’s ruling allowed an appeal in the D.C. Circuit to occur before the ruling would take effect. That appeal has not yet concluded. The Obama Administration filed its appellate brief in October 2016, but subsequently the Trump Administration and Republican-majority House of Representatives have held the case in abeyance, subject only to status reports to be provided to the Court. The next status report is due later this month.