Oral arguments for the Texas v. United States lawsuit, a suit filed in 2018 by 20 Republicans to challenge the Affordable Care Act, began today in New Orleans, Louisiana. The case is currently in the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals after a cherry-picked, conservative Texan judge declared the entirety of the ACA invalid and unconstitutional.
As the oral arguments kicked off, Progress Iowa and Protect Our Care Iowa joined State Senator Janet Peterson in Des Moines for a press conference to bring attention to the potentially devastating impact on Iowans’ health care if the lawsuit were to prevail.
If the ACA were to be dismantled, 187,000 Iowans would lose their coverage, resulting in a 126% increased in uninsured. There would also be about 1.3 million Iowans with pre-existing conditions who would lose their protections.
Unprecedented Presidential Intervention
Matt Sinovic from Progress Iowa called Trump’s move to back the lawsuit an “unprecedented action” as they work to remove current law, rather than defend it. The executive branch is neither a law-making branch nor a law-interpreting branch, he noted. Rather, the executive branch’s function is to carry out laws put in place and decided just by the other two branches.
However, President Trump has teamed up with 19 other Republican-run states from around the country to break down the ACA and strip coverage and pre-existing protections from approximately 130 million Americans. Conservative legal scholar Jonathan Adler and health-law professor Abbe Gluck argued that the decision to back the case, “makes a mockery of the rule of law and basic principles of democracy.” Progress Iowa also claimed that other experts have described the decision as “absolutely insane” and as a “big invasion” of legislative power.
The move really shouldn’t come as a surprise; repealing the Affordable Care Act was another one of Trump’s campaign promises, and it seems he’ll leave no stone unturned in an effort to remove the legislation.
But it is odd, historically, that the Trump administration has decided to back the lawsuit. The lawsuit is against the federal government – President Trump is the head of the federal government. Effectively, his administration has backed a lawsuit against themselves. However, in terms of attacking the ACA, most other avenues have effectively been used up, unsuccessfully.
Short of winning another presidential term, taking back the House and maintaining the Senate majority (which was the case in 2016, and the Republican Party was still unable to remove the ACA, thanks in large part to John McCain), there’s not a ton of avenues for this fight to continue. This all makes backing a lawsuit against themselves seem like a last-ditch effort to remove pre-existing coverage.
Timeline of Lawsuit Developments
February 2018: A coalition of Republican states, led by Texas, sued the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to get legal proceedings underway. They argued that because Congress had eliminated the individual mandate, the entire ACA should be ruled unconstitutional.
June 2018: The Trump Administration refused to defend the ACA against the lawsuit, effectively joining the lawsuit. They also took steps to argue that individual mandate and protection for 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions should be eliminated.
December 2018: A conservative federal judge, Reed O’Connor, ruled in favor of the 19 Republican states to overturn the ACA.
March 2019: The Trump Administration doubled down on their support of the lawsuit, sending a letter to the court saying they would refuse to defend the ACA.
July 2019: Trump’s lawyers arrive in New Orleans on July 9 to make their case against the ACA before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, kicking off oral arguments.
by Josh Cook