Monday, December 17, 2018

Ruling ACA Unconstitutional Could Have Devastating Effects on Patients, APA Warns

APA is calling for vigorous appeal of Friday’s decision by a Texas court that the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional.

“This ruling has an unconscionable result,” APA President Altha Stewart, M.D., said in a press statement. “Should this ruling stand, millions of our patients will lose their health care. We cannot afford to go back to the days when Americans were denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions or when insurance companies would not cover mental health and substance use disorders.”

U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor in Texas ruled that since Congress repealed the tax penalty associated with the individual mandate requiring people to have insurance, the mandate “can no longer be sustained as an exercise of Congress’ tax power” and is therefore unconstitutional. O'Connor argued that the individual mandate cannot be separated from the rest of the law, and therefore the remaining provisions of the ACA are invalid.

Through private insurance reforms and Medicaid expansion, the law has provided coverage to roughly 2.8 million Americans with substance use disorders and 1.3 million Americans living with serious mental illness. An estimated 20 million Americans have coverage under the ACA.

O’Connor’s ruling was over a lawsuit filed this year by a group of Republican governors and state attorneys general. The ruling has no immediate effect, and multiple states have vowed to appeal the decision. The case is expected to eventually be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

If upheld, the ruling would wreak havoc on the insurance market, and millions of Americans could lose insurance coverage they currently have through the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid, the prohibition on discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, and the provision allowing children under 26 to be covered by their parents’ health plans.

“This harmful ruling must be appealed and overturned,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “The court’s decision to invalidate the ACA, including pre-existing conditions protections and the Medicaid expansion, will hurt our patients with mental illness and all illnesses. This decision must be appealed and reversed.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “APA Calls on Administration to Defend Patient Protections in ACA.”

(Image: iStock/Marilyn Nieves)


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