National Consumers League

Texas v. United States - How consumers can protect themselves amid threats to the Affordable Care Act

Nissa ShaffiLast week a federal judge in Texas, Justice Reed O’Connor, ruled that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional. The case against the ACA is being led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on behalf of a group of 18 Republican state attorneys general, two governors, and two individual plaintiffs.

The lawsuit argues that because the individual mandate penalty has been repealed (effective 2019), it would render the entire ACA invalid, as the entirety of the law relies on the mandate. The lawsuit makes the claim that the absence of an individual mandate penalty would mean that the entire ACA would be unconstitutional.

While this news is disheartening, it is important for consumers to know that the ACA is still the law of the land. The ruling is currently at the federal district court level and is going to be appealed, led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, representing a group of 17 attorneys general in other states. Attorney General Becerra described the ruling as an “assault on 133 million Americans with preexisting conditions and the 20 million Americans who rely on the ACA’s consumer protections for healthcare.”

Although the federal deadline for open enrollment has passed, there are some states that have their own individual exchanges, with extended open enrollment deadlines:

NCL encourages residents of these states who are not enrolled in a marketplace plan to take advantage of these extended deadlines. You can also see if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, which allows individuals to sign up for health insurance outside of the Open Enrollment Period if they have had changes in certain life events. If you qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), you can apply at any time.

So take heart consumers. NCL believes strongly that this ruling–which comes from a right-wing Texas judge–is overbroad and will be reversed on appeal.