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Recent ACA Court Ruling Puts Behavioral Healthcare Under Duress

January 02, 2019
Few headlines coming out of the winter holidays were as upsetting as U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor’s decision to invalidate the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Now, we must employ every means through the courts and through the Congress to overturn this very wrong-headed decision. Here are a few comments about the legal aspects of the case. First, Judge O’Connor did not invoke the principle of separability. This means that he did not separate the tax clause in the ACA, which he determined to be unconstitutional, from other features of the legislation. This should have been done and clearly will become the basis for an appeal of the decision to the Appellate and Supreme courts. Second, Judge O’Connor stayed a date certain for implementation of his decision. This leaves all aspects of the ACA in legal limbo and creates monumental uncertainty. Implementation of Judge O’Connor’s decision would cause catastrophic consequences. Unless a higher court steps in, healthcare for tens of millions of people and vital consumer protections literally could disappear. The following would be gone: Marketplace tax credits and coverage for 10 million people Medicaid expansion currently covering 12 million people Protections for 133 million people with pre-existing conditions when they buy coverage on their own Allowing kids to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26 Ban on annual and lifetime limits Ban on insurance discrimination against women Limits on out-of-pocket costs Improvements to Medicare, including reduced costs for prescription drugs Rules to hold insurance companies accountable Small business tax credits Just a moment's reflection will suggest that these actions would throw the nation's entire healthcare system into chaos. Behavioral health would be harmed disproportionately because it has benefitted disproportionally from the ACA. We must not permit this to happen. As we did in 2017, we again will organize a very broad-based healthcare coalition to overturn Judge O’Connor’s decision. We will work in the Senate and in the House; we will work in every state; we will work in the Appellate and Supreme courts; and we will work in every venue possible. Please join us. Your healthcare and the healthcare of your family members are at stake.
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