Dallas, TX – The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals put the future of health insurance coverage for millions of Americans at risk when they struck down the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate on December 18th. Twenty Republican Attorneys General and Governors brought the lawsuit after Congress chose to reduce the individual mandate’s penalty to $0, making it ineffective at incentivizing Americans to enroll in health insurance. WIthout an effective mandate, fewer healthy people stay enrolled in insurance, resulting in higher insurance premiums for everyone.
While this decision comes on the heels of Open Enrollment, the ACA remains the law of the land and no one’s coverage will be affected while litigation continues. The appeals court did not decide what other parts of the ACA should stay or go. Instead, the court ordered Judge O’Connor to reconsider what exact provisions of the ACA should remain intact.
Without the protections of the ACA, approximately 890,000 Kentuckians with pre-existing conditions, and millions of people across the country, could be charged higher premiums or denied coverage entirely. Rural Kentuckians will be particularly hard hit by this decision, which will strip coverage from the Medicaid Expansion population and roll back marketplace subsidies, costing jobs by taking federal dollars from doctors’ offices, hospitals and local economies.
“This lawsuit was orchestrated to dismantle the ACA without regard to the millions who stand to lose coverage or face discrimination without the consumer protections, Medicaid expansion, and subsidies that the ACA has put in place,” said Emily Beauregard, executive director for Kentucky Voices for Health. “This crisis was created by Congress and Congress has a responsibility to fix it.”
Adrienne Bush, executive director for the Housing and Homeless Coalition of Kentucky, said, “on behalf of housing insecure Kentuckians, we are disappointed in the court’s ruling, as ACA implementation and Medicaid expansion has provided stability over time. A growing body of research supports the idea that insurance coverage supports housing stability, and we fear the progress gained will be lost after today’s ruling.”
“Mental health and substance use disorder treatment increased significantly in Kentucky in large part due to Medicaid expansion and elimination of pre-existing coverage exemptions by private employers,” said Marcie Timmerman, executive director for Mental Health America of Kentucky. “The court’s decision leaves the ACA in limbo and threatens the well-being of Kentuckians who are left worrying that they may lose access to critical treatment if the ACA continues to be dismantled.”
“The Fifth Circuit’s decision is deeply troubling,” said Betsy Davis Stone, Health Law Fellow at Kentucky Equal Justice Center. “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has been providing just what the name says – a lot of essential patient protections and access to affordable care. If lawmakers don’t intervene, people with pre-existing conditions have zero protections, and hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians could lose their health insurance.”
“We know that elections have consequences and the jeopardy that the ACA is now in is a good example,” said Sheila Schuster, executive director of the Advocacy Action Network. “Members of Congress are trying to dismantle the ACA largely for partisan, political reasons, with no concern for the health or economic wellbeing of Kentuckians. Voters should remember that when they go to the polls in 2020.”
“The ACA has been an economic and health windfall for the commonwealth, and this ruling puts all that at risk. Congress created this problem with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, and Congress could end this dangerous lawsuit by changing the individual mandate penalty to anything above zero – they should do it post haste,” said Dustin Pugel, a policy analyst with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.
InsureKY is a statewide coalition of nonprofits formed to promote more affordable health insurance, better care, and stronger consumer protections for all Kentuckians.
Dustin Pugel, Policy Analyst
Kentucky Center for Economic Policy
Emily Beauregard, Executive Director
Kentucky Voices for Health
Sheila Schuster, Executive Director
Advocacy Action Network