D.C.– Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and 11 other attorneys general celebrated a victory last week over the Trump administration's efforts to tear up the Affordable Care Act, also known as the ACA or Obamacare. This is not the end of the battle over the ACA, however.
The lawsuit, led by Healey and New York’s Attorney General Letitia James, challenged a rule from the U.S. Department of Labor. The DOL's Association Health Plan (AHP) rule would have allowed business associations to market limited coverage health insurance plans without the protections for consumers in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). A federal court ruled that the DOL rule violated federal law.
A press release from Healey's office explained the premise of the lawsuit brought by the state attorneys general, which argued that "the rule would undermine federal consumer protections in the ACA, invite fraud, mismanagement, and deception in the health insurance market, and unduly expand access to AHPs without sufficient justification or consideration of the consequences."
After the ruling, Healey stated: "This rule was another attempt by the Trump Administration to sabotage the Affordable Care Act and take away health care for millions of Americans. My office is committed to high-quality, comprehensive health insurance for all."
However, this was just one battle in the larger effort by the Trump administration to throw out the ACA.
On March 25, the Trump administration asked a federal court to throw out the ACA in its entirety. The ACA currently provides health care coverage for millions of Americans and offers protection to persons with preexisting conditions so that they cannot be denied insurance.
Attorney General Maura Healey, along with 21 other state attorneys general, are defending the ACA, challenging a December 2018 ruling in Texas v. U.S. This lower court ruled that the entire ACA is unconstitutional due to the changes to the minimum coverage requirement. Now, attorneys general are appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
In their appeal, the attorneys general defend the constitutionality of the minimum coverage requirement, but also go on to say that "even if the minimum coverage requirement were held to be unconstitutional, there is no legal basis for declaring the rest of the ACA invalid." The brief goes on to describe the massive impact it would have on the U.S. healthcare system if millions of Americans were suddenly uninsured.
Two GOP state attorneys general have also filed an amicus brief arguing against striking down the ACA in its entirety. Montana Attorney General Timothy C. Fox and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost agree with that the minimum coverage requirement is unconstitutional, but say that it would be overreach to throw out the entire ACA.
While the fate of the ACA remains uncertain, we know for sure that healthcare will be a huge issue in the election of 2020.
Image via Flickr / City Year
Maura Healey speaks at the City Year Legal Community Breakfast in 2016