Ford, 20 states file opening brief in ACA case
Nevada Appeal staff report
Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford joined a coalition of 21 attorneys general in filing an opening brief in Texas v. U.S., defending the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the healthcare of tens of millions of Americans.
The brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, argues every provision of the ACA remains valid. “Defending the Affordable Care Act means defending 133 million Americans, including 17 million kids with preexisting health conditions,” Ford said. “My office joins 20 other states taking a legal stand to ensure our residents, including hundreds of thousands of Nevadans, have accessible and affordable health care.”
The plaintiffs, two individuals and 18 states led by Texas, filed this lawsuit in February 2018, challenging one provision of the Affordable Care Act — the requirement that individuals maintain health insurance or pay a tax. Texas’ lawsuit came after Congress effectively elimiated the tax in December 2017.
Opponents of the ACA in Congress had attempted and failed to repeal the ACA more than 70 times since its instatement. The plaintiffs argued this change made the minimum coverage provision unconstitutional. They further argued the rest of the ACA couldn’t be “severed” from that one provision, so the entire Act must be struck down.
On December 14, 2018, Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas issued his decision agreeing with the plaintiffs. In response, a coalition of attorneys general filed a motion to stay the effect of that decision and to expedite resolution of this case. The District Court granted that motion on December 30, 2018.
On January 3, the coalition of attorneys general continued their legal defense of the ACA and formally filed a notice of appeal, challenging the District Court’s December 14 opinion in the Fifth Circuit. In February, 2019, Ford filed a motion on behalf of the State of Nevada to intervene in this suit and join the coalition of states and territories in their appeal.
This filing continues the legal defense of the ACA. In their brief, the attorneys general argue the plaintiffs don’t have standing to challenge the minimum coverage provision, because the individual plaintiffs aren’t injured by a provision that now offers a lawful choice between buying insurance or paying essentially no tax.
Attorneys general further argue the state plaintiffs also lack standing, because there’s no evidence the amended provision will require them to spend more money. Lastly, they argue the District Court wrongly concluded that the minimum coverage provision was unconstitutional, and even if it were there would be no legal basis for also declaring the rest of the ACA invalid — including its provisions expanding Medicaid, reforming Medicare, and providing protections to individuals with preexisting health conditions.
The brief also states others affected include: Young adults under 26 years of age who are covered under a parent’s health plan; more than 12 million Americans who received coverage through Medicaid expansion; 12 million seniors who receive a Medicare benefit to afford prescription drugs; and working families who rely on tax credits and employer-sponsored plans to afford insurance.
In addition to Nevada, the following states and territories are included in today’s brief:
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawai’i, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont and Washington.