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Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

 

For media inquiries only, contact:  
Charlotte Gomer, Press Secretary
Phone: (804)786-1022 
Mobile: (804) 512-2552
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING CONTINUES TO DEFEND THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT IN COURT

RICHMOND (March 25, 2019) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today 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. Today’s brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, argues that every provision of the ACA remains valid. It also details the harm that declaring the ACA invalid would have on the tens of millions of people who rely on it for access to high-quality, affordable healthcare, as well as the broader damage that it would do to the nation’s healthcare system. In June, Attorney General Herring intervened to defend against the suit, leaving him and his colleagues to defend Americans’ healthcare after President Trump switched sides and joined with Republican state attorneys general in trying to strike down the law. 

 

“This politically motivated lawsuit is dangerous, reckless and risks the health of Americans,” said Attorney General Herring. “Millions of Virginians rely on the Affordable Care Act for quality, affordable healthcare and when the Trump Administration refused to defend the ACA in court I knew I had to step in. I will continue to join my colleagues in fighting to make sure that healthcare is not ripped away from Americans.”  

 

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 reduced that tax to zero dollars December 2017. Opponents of the ACA had attempted and failed to repeal the ACA over 70 times since its instatement. The plaintiffs argued that this change made the minimum coverage provision unconstitutional. They further argued that the rest of the ACA could not 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, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues 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, 2019, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues continued their legal defense in the ACA and formally filed a notice of appeal, challenging the District Court’s December 14 opinion in the Fifth Circuit. 

 

Today’s filing continues the legal defense of the ACA. In their brief, the attorneys general argue that the plaintiffs do not have standing to challenge the minimum coverage provision, because the individual plaintiffs are not injured by a provision that now offers a lawful choice between buying insurance and paying a zero-dollar tax. The attorneys general further argue that the state plaintiffs also lack standing, because there is no evidence that the amended provision will require them to spend more money. Lastly, 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 highlights the consequences of upholding the district court’s decision, which would wreak havoc on the entire American healthcare system and risk lives in every state. If affirmed, the district court’s decision would affect nearly every American, including:

  • 133 million Americans, including 17 million kids, with preexisting health conditions;
  • 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.

If successful, Texas’ lawsuit would harm Virginia by:

• Halting Medicaid expansion, which was signed into law in Virginia last year, with the goal of covering an additional 400,000 Virginians;

• Allowing insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or charge them more;

• Allowing insurance companies to discriminate against women by charging them higher premiums;

• Taking away seniors’ prescription drug discounts;

• Ending $1.15 billion in tax credits that helped 335,000 Virginians afford insurance in 2017 alone;

• Ending the healthcare exchange where more than 410,000 Virginians purchased their healthcare in 2017;

• Stripping funding from our nation’s public health system, including work to combat the opioid epidemic; and

• Ending billions in federal aid for healthcare, including $458 million in FY 2019 and $1.9 billion in FY 2020.

 

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