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Patient groups urge U.S. Court of Appeals to uphold the health care law

‚ÄčOn April 1, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the American Cancer Society (ACS), and 15 other patient groups filed an amicus curiae or friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in the case Texas vs. United States on behalf of millions of patients with preexisting conditions who depend on the protections provided by the health care law known as the Affordable Care Act.

The case is pending before the Fifth Circuit after District Court Judge Reed O'Connor ruled in favor of plaintiffs in the case, who argued the entire health care law should be struck down because Congress repealed the individual mandate's tax penalty as part of tax reform legislation. Twenty states led by the Texas Attorney General filed the suit challenging the health care law. ACS and ACS CAN, along with the American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and National Multiple Sclerosis Society, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the District Court case in June 2018. 

The groups argued that the law is intended to help protect patients with pre-existing conditions, noting the devastating impact on patients should the federal appellate court uphold the lower court's ruling that the entire law is invalid due to the fact that Congress repealed the individual mandate's tax penalty as part of tax reform legislation at the end of 2017. The filing comes a week after the administration stated that it supports overturning the law in its entirety.

Following is the groups' joint statement:

"The critical patient protections in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provide an essential lifeline for millions of Americans who suffer from serious, acute, and chronic health conditions. Their ability to access affordable, meaningful health insurance is critical to their health and wellbeing.

"The lower court's decision to invalidate the entire health care law threatens to resurrect barriers to health care for anyone with a pre-existing condition and could result in coverage being denied outright. Health plans would no longer be required to offer essential benefits necessary to prevent and treat a serious condition, and they could once again impose arbitrary annual and lifetime limits on coverage. Invalidating the law also would jeopardize the federal tax credits that make health insurance affordable for more than 8 million Americans, threatening their access to critical health coverage.

"The ACA was intended to improve access to and increase the number of Americans with quality health care coverage. Since the law went into effect, millions more Americans nationwide are insured with higher quality health insurance than before the law was passed. Because of the ACA, there is already a small but statistically significant shift toward early-stage diagnosis for colorectal, lung, breast and pancreatic cancer in states that have increased access to health care through Medicaid.  Additionally, in states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA the uninsured share of substance abuse disorder or mental health disorder hospitalizations fell roughly 15 percent from late 2013 to 2015.

"Undoing the patient protections in the law would ignore the will of Congress at the expense of 27 million Americans who would lose their health care by 2020, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. We urge the appeals court to respect the will of Congress, overturn the lower court's ruling and preserve health care for millions of Americans."

The groups on the brief include the American Cancer Society, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Crohn's & Colitis Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Epilepsy Foundation, Global Healthy Living Foundation, Hemophilia Federation of America, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, March of Dimes, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, National Hemophilia Foundation, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and The Kennedy Forum.

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