American’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) has told the U.S. Supreme Court that its members would like the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the Affordability Care Act (ACA) as quickly as possible.
AHIP says, in an “amicus” brief, or “friend of the court” brief, that it would prefer to see the court keep all of the ACA intact, or simply kill the portions directly related to the individual coverage mandate provision, than to see all of the ACA go away in a flash.
And AHIP says its members want to see the Supreme Court act on the matter soon, not leave health insurers and enrollees dangling as a district court in Texas takes a second whack at the case.
Links to the AHIP amicus brief and other groups’ amicus briefs are available here.
An earlier article about the Texas v. Azar case is available here.
A three-judge panel at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently declared the ACA individual coverage mandate provision to be unconstitutional. The court ruled that the case should return to the lower court judge for further
That decision “’prolong[s] the uncertainty this litigation has caused to the future of this indubitably significant statute’” and “’ensures that no end for this litigation is in sight,’” AHIP writes in the brief, quoting an earlier court ruling. “‘Such a do-over in the lower courts raises the prospect of years of further litigation.’”
The drafters of the two bills that created the ACA want to keep health insurers from using health problems, such as obesity or diabetes, as a reason to reject applicants for coverage, or to charge sick people more for coverage.
To make a guaranteed-issue system work, the drafters tried to add many subsidies, stabilization programs, underwriting rules and requirements to the rules for individual major medical insurance.
The “individual shared responsibility” section, or individual mandate section, requires many people to have what the government classifies as solid major medical coverage, or minimum essential coverage (MEC).
Starting in 2014, the individual mandate section required some people who failed to have MEC for enough of the year to pay a penalty.
ACA opponents argued that the provision was the equivalent of a law requiring people to buy and eat broccoli, even if they hate broccoli.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that ACA opponents could not sue to have the ACA’s “individual shared responsibility” penalty, or individual mandate penalty, declared unconstitutional, because the penalty was a tax. The court held that a federal law prohibits taxpayers from suing to have the courts use injunctions to block new taxes, including the ACA individual mandate penalty.
Congress later put a provision setting the individual mandate penalty at zero in the legislation that created the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
ACA opponents in Texas and elsewhere argued that, because the penalty is now set at zero, the provision is simply a bare requirement for some people to have minimum essential coverage, not a tax. Those opponents have argued that the courts should declare that a bare requirement for people to have health insurance is unconstitutional.
Because the ACA has no severability provision keeping the rest of the ACA in force if one part is tossed out, killing the individual mandate provision unconstitutional should kill all of the ACA, ACA opponents contend.