Texas v. US
UPDATE DECEMBER 18, 2019: The Center for Public Representation is extremely concerned by today’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that puts the healthcare of tens of millions of people at risk. The Court 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 ACA’s protections are critical to the health and wellbeing of millions of disabled Americans, and its repeal would disproportionately harm them, reversing years of progress. Adequate health coverage is often not only a lifeline, but critical to community integration for people with disabilities. The ACA’s Essential Health Benefits, protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and Medicaid expansion, among other provisions, have tremendously improved access to healthcare that actually meets the needs of people with disabilities.
While the ACA remains the law of the land, its future is uncertain. Earlier this year, a coalition of disability organizations, including CPR, filed an amicus brief explaining the importance of the ACA for people with disabilities. We will continue our efforts to protect the ACA and remain committed to defending and advancing access to healthcare for people with disabilities.
The Texas v. US decision 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 have 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.
No injunction has been issued and the decision hasn’t changed anything yet. The ACA is intact, 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 has been 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, 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 have 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.
This past July, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments and the 2-1 decision declaring the individual mandate unconstitutional and remanding the question of whether the mandate is severable to the district court was issued on December 18, 2019, as detailed above. The district court has 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.