Attorney General News Release 2019-26: Hawaii Continues Fight to Protect the Affordable Care Act

Posted on May 24, 2019 in Latest News

Attorney General Joins Coalition of 21 Attorneys General

Challenging Plaintiffs’ Lack of Standing in Texas v. US

HONOLULU – Attorney General Clare E. Connors, joined a coalition led by Attorney General Becerra of 20 states and the District of Columbia, in filing a response in Texas v. U.S., defending the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the healthcare of tens of millions of Americans. The brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Wednesday, argues that every provision of the ACA remains valid. It further argues that the position taken by the Trump Administration and the Texas-led coalition is legally incorrect and dangerous to our healthcare system.

“This is another important step in our ongoing efforts to ensure affordable health care for Hawaii residents and millions of other Americans,” Attorney General Connors said.

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 in 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 reduction in the tax made the minimum coverage provision unconstitutional. They further argued that this provision could not be “severed” from the rest of the ACA, meaning that the entire Act must be struck down. In the district court, the Trump Administration agreed with the plaintiffs that the minimum coverage provision, as amended, was unconstitutional, and further argued that it could not be severed from two of the ACA’s important provisions—the community-rating and guaranteed-issue reforms. Then, in March, the Trump Administration signaled that it would change course and argue that the entire ACA is now invalid. The Trump Administration filed its brief in support of its new position on May 1, 2019, alongside a brief filed by the Texas-led coalition and the two individual plaintiffs.

The most recent filing responds to these arguments by the Trump Administration and the plaintiffs, and continues the legal defense of the ACA, the backbone of our healthcare system. In their brief, the Attorneys General argue that none of the plaintiffs have standing to challenge the individual mandate 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 individual mandate remains constitutional, and is similar to many other laws that Congress has adopted. The brief further argues that, even if the individual mandate is unconstitutional, it should be severed from the rest of the ACA because Congress clearly wanted to preserve every provision of the Affordable Care Act when it reduced the tax amount to zero.

Moreover, as the Attorneys General explained in their opening brief, this case 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 pre-existing 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.
  • Working families who rely on tax credits and employer-sponsored plans to afford insurance.

Oral argument in the matter is set in the Fifth Circuit for July 9, 2019, in New Orleans.

Copies of the briefs are attached.

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For more information, contact:

Krishna F. Jayaram

Special Assistant to the Attorney General

(808) 586-1284

Email: [email protected]

Web: http://ag.hawaii.gov

Twitter: @ATGHIgov