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Federal judge rules against health care law; ACS CAN vows to continue to fight for interests of cancer patients and survivors

On Friday, Dec. 14, a U.S. District Court judge in Texas overturned the Affordable Care Act and ruled that the entire health care law is unconstitutional. 

While the ruling could eventually eliminate critical protections for people like cancer patients and survivors, it will not immediately impact their health coverage.

The law remains as-is during the appeals process. And, some of the state attorneys general who are defending the law have already announced they are prepared to file an appeal.

The American Cancer Society and ACS CAN submitted a brief together with the American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and National Multiple Sclerosis Society defending the law. ACS CAN will continue its efforts to protect access to health coverage throughout the judicial process.

Since the day the law was passed, ACS CAN has remained vigilant in defending the provisions that are critical to cancer patients and survivors. This includes prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions like cancer, or attempting to drastically increase costs to make quality coverage unaffordable.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the impact of invalidating the law is projected to cause as many as 27 million people to lose their coverage by 2020 and jeopardize the federal tax credits that make health insurance affordable for more than 8 million Americans, threatening their access to critical health coverage. The implications on Medicaid expansion are unclear, but ACS CAN will continue to monitor the impact on those who often have no other access to safety net coverage.

Together with public health partners, ACS CAN will continue to make the case to the courts, Congress and the administration to maintain the protections in the health care law, to maximize our ability to prevent, detect, and treat cancer in this country.

More about the decision

In a lawsuit filed this year, a group of Republican governors and state attorneys general challenged the Affordable Care Act, arguing that the requirement that people have health insurance — known as the individual mandate — is unconstitutional, and therefore, so is the entire law.

At issue was whether the individual mandate still compelled people to buy coverage after Congress reduced the tax penalty for people who do not have health insurance to zero dollars. As part of their 2017 tax reform package, congressional Republicans amended the ACA to eliminate the tax penalty. They zeroed the penalty out without eliminating the instruction to buy insurance. 

In his ruling, Judge Reed O'Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas said the penalty-free mandate still amounted to a coercive exercise of government power. The judge asserted that the penalty-free mandate “requires [the plaintiffs] to purchase and maintain certain health-insurance coverage.” He said he would not "parse the A.C.A.'s provisions one by one," but that he had to invalidate the whole law.



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