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The Texas Ruling on the Affordable Care Act: What You Need to Know

December 19, 2018

On Friday, December 14, a federal judge in Texas issued a ruling that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional. While the thought of losing numerous patient protections under the ACA is extremely concerning, it is not time to panic.

What Happened

In 2017, Congress passed H.R. 1, a major overhaul to the nation’s tax code. Included in that law was a repeal of the ACA’s individual mandate, the piece of the law which required people to obtain health insurance. Eight state attorneys general and two governors then filed a lawsuit saying that because Congress repealed the individual mandate, the rest of the ACA cannot stand on its own and is unconstitutional. On December 14, U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor in Texas agreed. Judge O’Connor, however, did not issue an injunction barring enforcement of the law. Therefore, the ACA remains in place while the case is appealed.

What’s Next

A handful of states that support the ACA have already spoken up in this case and will appeal the judge’s ruling. That could land the case in the Supreme Court, where the Justices would once again decide the fate of the ACA. Regardless of where it lands, this process will take time, so it is not expected that any of the ACA provisions will be halted immediately.

Starting in January, the House of Representatives will be controlled by Democrats, who are by-and-large supporters of the ACA. House Democrats have already vowed to legislate and/or send counsel to court in order to reverse this ruling, and Senate Democrats have also announced plans to push for a vote to intervene in the case.

The ACA did many things, such as set up state and federal “Exchanges” for buying health insurance, banned denials based on pre-existing conditions and limited out-of-pocket costs for patients. However, it was a nearly 1,000-page law that also did many lesser known or recognized things, many of which have been implemented for over eight years now. Those will not feasibly be reversed overnight, and there will be many invested in the status quo those provisions have created and who will push back, even if they originally did not support the law.

What IDF is Doing

IDF joined more than 30 other patient groups in a statement on December 17 expressing the importance of things, like pre-existing conditions protections for our patients, and concern that this ruling would take those away. IDF will continue to engage with our community and with other patient groups to ensure that everyone has access to the coverage and care that they need.

To be alerted when your help is needed in preserving vital patient protections afforded by the ACA, sign up for IDF Action Alerts today.

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