California v. Texas

Update: November 10, 2020

The US Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments today in California v. Texas, a challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) arguing that the law’s individual mandate is unconstitutional and that because of that, the entire law should be struck down.

A coalition of disability organizations, including CPR, has worked throughout the course of this litigation to represent the disability community and filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court earlier this year, explaining the importance of the ACA for people with disabilities. You can read the coalition’s statement on today’s argument here. More information on the case, including background information and legal filings, can be found below.


California v. Texas, formerly known as Texas v. US, is part of the broader effort to weaken and get rid of the ACA. The lawsuit was brought by a group of states challenging the Constitutionality of the individual mandate.  The Department of Justice (DOJ) not only refused to defend critical parts of the ACA, but also actively requested that the court invalidate the ACA requirements that guarantee coverage for everyone and stop insurers from charging people with disabilities higher costs.  In Congress, a number of House committee chairs sent letters asking for documents and other information about the change in the Administration’s position in the case.

On December 14, 2018, a federal district judge in Texas issued a decision declaring the “individual mandate” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) –  the individual coverage requirement – unconstitutional due to the Republican tax cut bill that zeroed out the penalties.  Even more drastically, the court declared the entire ACA unconstitutional rather than just the provisions it had found unconstitutional. Among other things, this would end the ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions, including disabilities.  

That decision did not lead to any immediate changes. The ACA remains intact, and the insurance marketplaces remain in place. As the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has stated, “HHS will continue administering and enforcing all aspects of the ACA as it had before the court issued its decision. This decision does not require that HHS make any changes to any of the ACA programs it administers or its enforcement of any portion of the ACA at this time.”

The case was appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. On March 25, 2019, a coalition of more than 20 states, led by California, filed a brief arguing in favor of the constitutionality of the ACA.  On April 1, 2019, a number of disability organizations, including CPR, filed a brief with the Court describing the importance of the ACA to people with disabilities and asking the court to find the ACA constitutional. A coalition of states and DC also intervened in the case to defend the ACA.  

On May 1, 2019, the DOJ filed a brief on behalf of the Trump Administration. DOJ for the first time argued that the entire ACA should be struck down, including the protections for people with pre-existing conditions. In the district court, DOJ had argued that the individual mandate to have health insurance coverage was unconstitutional but that the court should “sever” that section of the ACA and uphold the rest of the law. This article provides a good description of DOJ’s brief and what it means.   

In July 2019, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments and, on December 18, 2019, ruled that the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional and sent it back in the hands of the district court judge – who has already once struck down the entire ACA as unconstitutional – to decide whether to invalidate the entire law. The district court issued a “stay” on its decision to strike down the ACA during the lawsuit. That means that the ACA remains in effect while the case is litigated through the court system. For more on the Fifth Circuit’s decision, read our full statement here.

In March of 2020, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in the case. CPR, along with 18 other national disability rights organizations, filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court in May, defending the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which provides important protections for people with disabilities. The Court will hear oral arguments in the case on November 10, 2020.

California v. Texas: Background and Legal Filings

General Background on the Case

Potential Impact of Texas v. U.S. Decision on Key Provisions of the Affordable Care Act, Kaiser Family Foundation (1/3/20)

Texas v. United States Oral Arguments In July, Health Affairs (4/12/19)

Statement from the Department of Health and Human Services on Texas v. Azar (12/17/18)

Justice in Aging Statement on Affordable Care Act Decision in Texas (12/21/18)

National Health Law Program Says Texas Judge’s Decision on Affordable Care Act is ‘Fatally Flawed’ (12/17/18)

Federal Judge Strikes Down Entire ACA; Law Remains In Effect, Health Affairs (12/15/18)

A Federal Judge has Ruled the Affordable Care Act Unconstitutional. So Now What Happens?, USA Today (12/17/18)

The Trump Administration Joins a Lawsuit to Shred Obamacare, The Economist (6/8/18)

Information on Legal Filings

On March 2020 Decision by Supreme Court to Grant Certiorari

Justices grant Affordable Care Act petitions, SCOTUS Blog (3/2/20)

Supreme Court to Hear Obamacare Appeal, New York Times (3/2/20)

Supreme Court to Review Affordable Care Act Next Term, Wall Street Journal (3/2/20)

Supreme Court’s Obamacare review cheers Democrats with election year health-care focus, Washington Post (3/2/20)

Supreme Court will hear major challenge to Obamacare, POLITICO (3/2/20)

On January 2020 Motion for Expedited Consideration by Supreme Court

Democratic states ask Supreme Court to rule on Obamacare before election, POLITICO (1/3/20)

House, blue states ask justices to uphold Affordable Care Act, SCOTUSblog (1/3/20)

Democratic-led states ask Supreme Court to quickly review Affordable Care Act’s legality, Washington Post (1/3/20)

On March 2019 DOJ Filing

Trump Administration Asks Court To Strike Down Entire ACA , Health Affairs (3/26/19)

Briefs Filed

Opening Brief from Coalition of Attorneys General Defending the ACA

Disability Coalition Amicus Brief filed in the US Supreme Court

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