But what many Americans don’t realize is that the biggest threat yet to the Affordable Care Act is currently making its way through the court system—and it has the potential to overturn the law in its entirety.
In early July, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the Texas v. United States lawsuit to nullify the entire ACA. If successful, this lawsuit would rip away healthcare from 20 million people and leave 130 million more without protections for pre-existing conditions.
In short, a small number of Republican state attorneys general, with the support of the administration, are making the case that since Congress repealed the individual mandate, the remainder of the law cannot stand and should be invalidated entirely.
Of course, Congress explicitly kept the rest of the ACA while removing the mandate, so the president is asking the courts to overturn the clear will of Congress. Many legal scholars initially dismissed this argument as fringe. But last year a conservative U.S. District Court judge ruled in Republicans’ favor, and we’re currently awaiting the appellate court’s ruling sometime this fall. Whatever the court decides, there is a strong chance that the fate of the ACA will once again rest with the Supreme Court.
One thing is clear: Invalidating the ACA would be a humanitarian catastrophe.
Insurance coverage for 20 million Americans? Gone. Protections for people with pre-existing conditions that keep insurance companies from denying them care or charging them more? Gone. Requiring insurance companies to let young adults stay on their parents’ plans until age 26? Gone. Medicaid expansion coverage for 13 million people? Gone.
And that isn’t all. Invalidating the entire ACA would also send us back to the days when insurance companies could charge women 50% more than men. It would eliminate financial assistance that helps millions afford plans through the exchanges. And it would make it so that insurance companies no longer have to cover essential health benefits like prescription drugs or trips to the emergency room.
President Trump and congressional Republicans have been cheering this lawsuit on, despite the fact that they have absolutely no plan for what will happen if it succeeds.
There’s no denying that we need a robust debate within the Democratic Party about the future of healthcare in America. But the country cannot lose sight of the very real threats to coverage and protections for millions of Americans.
More commentaries from members of the 116th Congress on the state of healthcare