Attorney General James Fights to Defend ACA in Supreme Court

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James and a coalition of states today fought to defend the Affordable Care Act (ACA) against efforts by the Trump Administration and the State of Texas to repeal the law, putting the health care of tens of millions of Americans at risk. If the ACA is repealed, 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions could be denied coverage or charged more based on their health status. The ACA is also providing critical public health programs that are helping to fight the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), states’ decisions to expand Medicaid, and subsidies that are helping working families access the health coverage they need, among countless other benefits. Attorney General James and the coalition of 19 additional attorneys general and the governor of Kentucky, have now taken their fight to the U.S. Supreme Court, after the court agreed to review a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that held that the ACA’s individual mandate was unconstitutional and simultaneously called into question whether the remaining provisions of the law could still stand.

“In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has never been more clear how important it is for Americans to have access to quality, affordable health coverage,” said Attorney General James. “Yet, President Trump continues to actively work to strip health coverage away from millions of individuals and families, including more than a million who have the coronavirus. We are asking the Supreme Court to stop the president from kicking Americans off their health plans and finally end his efforts to undo all the progress made over the last ten years.”

The lawsuit — originally filed by a Texas-led coalition and later supported by the Trump Administration — argued that a Republican-led Congress rendered the ACA’s individual mandate unconstitutional when it reduced the penalty for forgoing coverage to $0. They further argued that the rest of the ACA should be held invalid as a result of that change. Attorney General James and a coalition of attorneys general defended the ACA in its entirety, supported by a bipartisan group of amici, including scholars, economists, public health experts, hospital and provider associations, patient groups, counties, cities, and more. While the Fifth Circuit held the individual mandate to be unconstitutional, it declined to further rule on the validity of the ACA’s remaining provisions. The court instead sent the case back to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas to determine whether the problem with the mandate requires striking down the whole law. In January, however, Attorney General James and the coalition petitioned the Supreme Court for expedited review to protect Americans’ health care and resolve the uncertainty created by the Fifth Circuit decision. The Supreme Court granted review of the case in March for the upcoming term.

In today’s filing, Attorney General James and the coalition make clear that patients, doctors, hospitals, employers, workers, states, and more will be negatively impacted if the ACA is repealed. The brief also highlights important advancements in health care access made under the ACA, including:

  • More than 12 million Americans now receive coverage through the ACA’s Medicaid expansion;
  • Nearly nine million individuals nationwide receive tax credits to help subsidize their health insurance coverage through individual marketplaces;
  • Millions of working families rely on high-quality, employer-sponsored insurance plans;
  • Important protections prohibit insurers from denying health insurance to the 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, like COVID-19, diabetes, cancer, or pregnancy, or from charging individuals higher premiums because of their health status; and
  • Nearly $1.3 trillion in federal funding has been dedicated to keeping Americans healthy and covered, which includes spending through Medicaid expansion and public health dollars.

And in New York:

  • The state uninsured rate reached its lowest point ever recorded in 2018 — 4.7-percent;
  • More than 4.7 million New Yorkers now receive health coverage through the ACA, including nearly 3.3 million on Medicaid;
  • 58 percent of enrollees were expected to receive $636 million in tax credits to help subsidize the cost of health care in 2019 alone; and
  • The average monthly premium tax credit available to eligible Qualified Health Plan enrollees in 2019 was $335.

Joining Attorney General James in filing today’s brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota (by and through its Department of Commerce), Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia, as well as the governor of Kentucky.