California Attorney General Xavier Becerra pledged Friday to redouble his efforts as the Affordable Care Act’s leading defender, saying attacks by the Trump Administration threaten health care for millions of Americans.
Becerra’s pledge came in response to an announcement from the administration Thursday that it would not defend key parts of the Affordable Care Act in court. The administration instead called on federal courts to scuttle the health law’s protection for people with preexisting medical conditions and its requirement that people buy health coverage.
Becerra accused the administration of going “AWOL.” It “has decided to abandon the hundreds of millions of people who depend on” the law, he said in an interview with California Healthline.
“It’s, simply put, an attack on the health care that millions of Americans have come to count on, and California, being the most successful state in implementing the Affordable Care Act, stands to lose perhaps more than anyone else.”
About 1.5 million Californians buy coverage through the state’s ACA exchange, Covered California, and nearly 4 million have joined Medicaid as a result of the program’s expansion under the law.
The state has been at the forefront in resisting many Trump Administration policies, including on health care and immigration.
“This is not a new experience for us under this new Trump era of having to defend Californians,” Becerra said. In the case of health care, “fortunately we have 16 other [Democratic attorneys general] who are prepared to do it with us. ”
At issue is a lawsuit filed by 20 Republican state attorneys general on Feb. 26, which charged that Congress’ changes to the law in last year’s tax bill rendered the entire ACA unconstitutional. In the tax law, Congress repealed the penalty for people who fail to have health insurance starting in 2019.
Becerra is leading an effort by Democratic attorney generals from others states and the District of Columbia to defend the ACA against that lawsuit. In May, the court allowed them to “intervene” in the case.