Affordable Care Act Challenge in Texas

January 30, 2020

The American Cancer Society and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network filed an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court” brief with 18 other groups urging the U.S. Supreme Court to immediately take up an ongoing challenge to the health care law known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Read the press release here

Unfortunately, the high court declined to hear the case on an expedited basis.  Read our reaction.  However, the Supreme Court can still accept the case in its regular course of business.

The petition comes as a result of a decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that the provision of the law requiring individuals to purchase health insurance (the “individual mandate”) is unconstitutional.  The Fifth Circuit then remanded the case back down to the trial court to determine which provisions of the law can be severed from the mandate, and which can stay in place.  However, states defending the law urged the high court to take up the case immediately to prevent consumer uncertainty and market instability.  Fortunately, the ACA stays in effect until the case is decided in full.

ACS, ACS CAN and 15 other health groups had also filed an amicus curiae brief at the Fifth Circuit in April of 2019.  Our brief provided the court with scientific data on the link between insurance coverage and health outcomes, as well as the devastating impact patients would face should they lose access to affordable and adequate insurance.  Read the press release.

Twenty states, led by the attorney general of Texas, filed a lawsuit challenging the ACA in federal court in Texas. The plaintiffs in Texas vs. US argue that because Congress repealed the individual mandate's tax penalty as part of tax reform legislation in December 2017, the entire law is invalid and must now be struck down.  In December of 2018, District Court Judge Reed O’Connor ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, striking down the entire law.  However, the law stays in effect during the appeals process.

Texas vs. US threatens vital patient provisions that ACS CAN fought to include and protect, including those that prohibit pre-existing condition exclusions by insurance companies and prohibit insurers to deny coverage and charge more for certain individuals based on health status. These patient protections are not only improving access to meaningful health care for many cancer patients and survivors, but they are also key to achieving the American Cancer Society’s lifesaving mission. Therefore, it is important that the appeals court be aware of the real impact its decision could have on a patient’s ability to access health insurance that covers critical cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment services.

As the representative of the administration, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) typically defends the law of the land. However, in a disturbing development, DOJ announced that it will not defend the health care law and instead supports the plaintiffs in the case arguing to overturn it. The DOJ position makes it even more important for ACS and ACS CAN to underscore the implications the litigation could have on patients.