Oregon joins 16 states in appeal to protect Affordable Care Act

Oregon joined California and 15 other states Thursday in an effort to protect the Affordable Care Act.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, leader of the 17-state coalition, filed a notice of appeal Thursday to a Northern District Court of Texas decision that found the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.

Becerra argued the decision lacked clarity and requested that an appeal of the district court’s Dec. 14 opinion be heard by the Fifth Circuit, which has jurisdiction over northern Texas.

“Our goal is simple: to stand up for the law of the land – the Affordable Care Act – in order to keep health care affordable and accessible for millions of Americans,” Becerra said in a statement.

Becerra said the case will impact nearly 133 million Americans — including 17 million kids —with preexisting conditions, nearly 12 million Americans who received coverage through Medicaid expansion, nearly 12 million seniors who use Medicare to afford prescription drugs and working families who depend on tax credits and employer-sponsored plans to afford insurance.

“This case impacts nearly every American,” Becerra said. “We will lead the (Affordable Care Act’s) defense as long and far as it takes.”

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a press call that she is working hard to protect Oregon residents’ health care and economy, which she said would be devastated if the district court’s ruling stands.

Oregon has received upwards of $14.5 billion dollars through the Affordable Care Act, which helped expand health coverage across the state, Rosenblum said.

About 500,000 Oregonians gained health coverage between 2013 and 2017, dropping the uninsured rate from 14.5 percent in 2013 to 6.2 percent today.

“We may be a relatively small state, but we have played an active role here in Oregon to protect our people’s health care,” Rosenblum said. “We’re pleased to be part of this team fighting the trial court’s decision.”

Colorado’s Attorney General-Elect Phil Weiser said in the press call that rural hospitals in Oregon and Colorado will likely have to close if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.

“We can’t let this happen,” he said.

Weiser said defending the Affordable Care Act will be his first task as Colorado’s new attorney general.

The 17-member coalition includes California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington, and the District of Columbia.

They called the District Court Judge Reed O’Connor’s opinion that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional “ludicrous,” “reckless” and “dangerous.”

O’Connor, a former aide to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is active in the conservative Federalist Society, according to the Texas Tribune. He’s seen as a reliably conservative judge who’s handed Republicans several victories. The case against the Affordable Care Act was brought by Republican states.

O’Connor ruled that the law’s individual mandate requiring individuals to sign up for health insurance is unconstitutional and that that invalidates the rest of the act because it is an “essential” part it.

The attorneys general on the press call, all Democrats, disagreed.

“Congress had the opportunity to and did not repeal the law,” said Weiser, a constitutional law expert who clerked at the Supreme Court of the United States. “It’s not for a judge to then effectively repeal the whole law.”

“It’s is an affront to the rule of law,” he added, arguing that the ruling will not stand.

Rosenblum emphasized the separation of powers between the court case and congressional action, but said the attorneys general look forward to checking in with the newly elected Congress.

For now, the attorneys general are focused on a win in the Fifth Circuit Court.

“There is a whole new day starting today, and I think it remains to be seen what role Congress will have,” Rosenblum said.

The attorneys said it’s unclear when they will have a ruling, but they hope for one by the end of the year.

Until then, the Affordable Care Act remains effective.

“The law is fully in effect, and no one should be acting or treating the law as if it were not,” Becerra said.

You can reach Jessica Floum at [email protected]. This story was published in partnership with The Lund Report.