Hospitals, physicians and insurer groups are united in wanting to preserve the Affordable Care Act and have defended it in briefs filed with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and America’s Health Insurance Plans are among groups that are fighting a lower court ruling in Texas that struck down the law.
On the other side is the Department of Justice, which last month reversed an earlier opinion and sided with the Texas judge who ruled that without the individual mandate, the entire ACA has no constitutional standing.
WHY THIS MATTERS
The ACA has insured millions who otherwise may not have been insured, allowing them to get care when needed instead of going to the more expensive emergency room when they have a medical crisis.
Hospitals and physicians see less uncompensated care under the ACA.
Without the ACA, patients would no longer have protections for pre-existing conditions, children would no longer have coverage under their parents’ health insurance plan until age 26, insurers would no longer be held to the 85 percent medical loss ratio, 100 percent coverage for certain preventive services would cease and individual marketplace and subsidies based on income would be eliminated.
Also, federal funding for Medicaid expansion would end.
Republicans under President Trump have tried unsuccessfully to repeal and replace the law.
The lawsuit, brought by 19 Republican governors, puts the GOP in a political bind over supporting the repeal of a law that is popular with consumers and their constituents. President Donald Trump recently said Republicans would unveil an ACA replacement after the 2020 election.
Democrats are also facing a crisis within their party over healthcare as it becomes a priority issue in the presidential election. Some of the leading candidates, such as Senator Kamala Harris, support Medicare for all. The Medicare for All Act of 2019 has been introduced in the Democratic-led House of Representatives.
Veteran politician and attorney Earl Pomeroy said he believes the Texas versus United States appeal changes the political course for 2020. The entire MFA argument will move to the back burner because of the Texas lawsuit, he said.
“The fight is going to be trying to underscore the Congressional importance of the provisions of the ACA and enhancing them,” Pomeroy said. “I do not believe that supporting Medicare for all is an advantageous position for a Democratic candidate running in a district that is not a secure Democratic seat. I believe Kamala Harris will spend much of the campaign walking back her comments on health insurance.”
Pomeroy is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives for North Dakota’s at-large district, a North Dakota Insurance Commissioner and senior counsel in the health policy group with Alston & Bird.
“The safe political ground is defending a law people have warmed up to,” he said. “All politics is local but all healthcare is personal. There is little risk tolerance in the middle class for bold experiments in healthcare.”
The lawsuit was brought by Texas and the 19 other Republican-led states, based on the end of the individual mandate. In February, U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor agreed that the federal law cannot stand without the individual mandate because if there is no penalty for not signing up for coverage, then the rest of the law is unconstitutional.
Twenty-one Democratic attorneys general appealed and the House of Representatives has intervened to defend the ACA in the case.
Either outcome in the appeals court may see the case headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
WHAT THE PROVIDERS AND INSURERS ARE TELLING THE COURT
In a court brief filed by the AHA, the Federation of American Hospitals, The Catholic Health Association of the United States, America’s Essential Hospitals, and the Association of American Medical Colleges urged the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to reject a district court decision they said would have a harmful impact on the American healthcare system.
“Those without insurance coverage forgo basic medical care, making their condition more difficult to treat when they do seek care. This not only hurts patients; it has severe consequences for the hospitals that provide them care. Hospitals will bear a greater uncompensated-care burden, which will force them to reallocate limited resources and compromise their ability to provide needed services,” they said.
In a separate friend-of-the-court brief, 24 state hospital associations also urged the Fifth Circuit to reverse, highlighting specific innovative programs and initiatives for more coordinated care.
The American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychiatric Association filed a brief. AMA President Dr. Barbara L. McAneny said, “The district court ruling that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and inseverable from the remainder of the ACA would wreak havoc on the entire healthcare system, destabilize health insurance coverage, and roll back federal health policy to 2009. The ACA has dramatically boosted insurance coverage, and key provisions of the law enjoy widespread public support.”
AHIP said the law impacts not only the individual and group markets, but also other programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and Part D coverage.
“Since its passage in 2010, the ACA has transformed the nation’s healthcare system,” AHIP said. “It has restructured the individual and group markets for purchasing private health care coverage, expanded Medicaid, and reformed Medicare. Health insurance providers (like AHIP’s members) have invested immense resources into adjusting their business models, developing new lines of business, and building products to implement and comply with those reforms.”