In Light of Court Decision, NPAF Calls to Defend ACA
Today the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate is unconstitutional. In a 2-1 decision, the panel sent the case back to the lower court, with instructions to “explain with precision” whether the remaining portions of the ACA can stand.
Legal experts have broken down three possible decisions from the lower court:
- The lower court could rule that the individual mandate can fall by itself.
- The lower court could rule that, along with the individual mandate, protections for pre-existing conditions and other conditions can be eliminated.
- The lower court can eliminate the entire law.
Of course, since there is currently no penalty for noncompliance with the individual mandate, eliminating it completely would have little further practical effect. Either of the latter two possible decisions, however, would surely be appealed to the Supreme Court and reverberate with patients throughout the country.
Alan Balch, CEO of the National Patient Advocate Foundation (NPAF), denounced the negative effect the meandering court case could have on patients:
“While the ACA is still intact today, uncertainty over tomorrow creates stress for both individual patients and the health care system as a whole. Not only are patients subject to misinformation, but we have already seen how insurers may raise rates to protect themselves from marketplace uncertainty caused by judicial and legislative threats to the ACA.
We do not know how the lower court will rule, nor do we know how the Supreme Court will decide should the court agree to hear the case. What we do know, though, is that the protections afforded to patients in the ACA were long overdue and now sacrosanct.
Protections for preexisting conditions allow families to have coverage, even during a job crisis.
Expanding access to Medicaid has saved children’s lives and made a better life possible for families.
Because of the ACA, when people buy a plan on the Marketplace, they can be confident that their plan will cover the medications and services they need without subjecting them to debilitating financial distress. Patients with pre-existing conditions will retain access to care, and young adults can stay on their parents’ coverage until age 26.
Patients should know that for now, their coverage is safe. However, they deserve certainty about the status of their health coverage moving forward. So, while this decision injects further uncertainty into the future of the Affordable Care Act, it only solidifies our resolve to defend the protections we gained under its auspices through advocacy action.”