June 21, 2018 07:46 pm News Staff – Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it would not defend crucial elements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in a legal challenge now playing out in a Texas district court. But groups concerned about the prospect of patients losing important protections the ACA provides -- including the AAFP -- continue to speak up for key provisions of the law.
Last week, the AMA, together with the Academy and three other specialty organizations, filed an amicus brief with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth Division. In February, Texas and 19 other states had asked that court to rule the ACA unconstitutional.
Also joining the friend-of-the-court brief were the American College of Physicians (ACP), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
In an June 14 news release announcing the brief, AMA President Barbara McAneny, M.D., said, "The policies being undermined through the plaintiffs' action have broad bipartisan and public support and have improved the lives of patients. An unfavorable decision in this case would create further disruption, generate uncertainty, spark additional premium increases and cause declines in coverage.
"We urge the court to reject this case because health policy should be developed in Congress and not in the courts."
The brief's filing comes on the heels of a statement the Academy and five other medical groups, including the AAP and ACP, issued on June 8 in which the groups pressed the Justice Department to reconsider its position on Texas et al. v. United States et al.
The AMA news release goes on to warn that patients now covered under the ACA would no longer have protections for pre-existing conditions if the lawsuit's plaintiffs prevailed. Additionally, the statement said, "children would no longer have coverage under their parents' health insurance plan until age 26; insurers would no longer be held to the 85-percent medical loss ratio, meaning they could generate higher profits at the expense of coverage and payments for services; 100 percent coverage for certain preventive services would cease; (and) annual and lifetime dollar limits could be reinstated, leading to more bankruptcies due to health care costs."
The Justice Department's June 10 decision to forgo an ACA defense in the lawsuit has prompted a steady stream of legal filings similar to the groups' brief, some of them from unexpected sources.
For example, five prominent legal scholars, including two who argued against the ACA in previous cases challenging the law, this month filed a joint amicus brief asking the district court to reject this lawsuit.
One of the five is Kevin Walsh, whose writing on the severability of portions of the ACA was cited by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas last year in a decision that involved whether the federal government has the right to control state law-making.
Among other amicus briefs filed in support of the ACA are a brief that includes the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, as well as separate briefs by AARP and the AARP Foundation, America's Health Insurance Plans, the American Hospital Association, and the Association of American Medical Colleges, to name just a few.