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— Statement from the Medicare Rights Center and Center for Medicare Advocacy

Washington, DC – This week, the Department of Justice took a new, more extreme position in a federal case challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), agreeing with a federal district court in Texas that the entire law should be invalidated.

Now under appeal in the Fifth Circuit, the Texas court’s December ruling — which is now the Trump Administration’s official stance — represents a serious threat to the rule of law, access to health care, and, potentially, to our health care system.

Previously, the Justice Department argued that some parts of the health law, but not all of it, should be struck down. At the center of the lawsuit, filed in 2018 by 20 Republican state attorneys general and governors as well as two individuals, is the ACA’s individual mandate and penalty for failure to be insured. Congress repealed this provision in the 2017 tax bill; an act the lawsuit claims should render the ACA null and void. Unfortunately, the district court in Texas agreed with this flawed analysis, although it has been denounced by legal scholars across the ideological spectrum.

If the Justice Department is successful and the entire law is eliminated, the results would be catastrophic. As many as 20 million Americans would lose health coverage in 2019 alone, and millions more would find their coverage at risk — including an estimated 133 million Americans under 65 with pre-existing conditions who rely on the ACA’s coverage and consumer protections. Older adults would be disproportionately impacted, as the likelihood of having a pre-existing condition increases with age: up to 84% of those ages 55 to 64 — 31 million individuals — have a pre-existing condition for which they could be denied coverage or charged an unaffordable rate absent the ACA’s important protections. This same group would also once again face an “age tax” that could put high quality coverage out of reach, and the ACA’s Medicare reforms that make the program more sustainable and its coverage more affordable would also be erased, including those that improve beneficiary access to preventive services and prescription drugs.

Instead of sabotaging access to health care, the federal government should be working to ensure more Americans have high quality and affordable coverage, as intended by several bills recently introduced in the House of Representatives. We call on the Trump Administration to stop undermining the Affordable Care Act, and we applaud those in Congress who are working to protect and strengthen it.

The Center for Medicare Advocacy joined AARP and Justice in Aging in filing an amicus brief in Texas v. United States, urging the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the trial court’s December 2018 ruling.

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