California on Monday jumped into the middle of a legal dispute over the future of the federal Affordable Care Act, seeking to preserve the law that is under assault in the courts by 20 other states.
California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra announced he is part of a coalition of 16 attorneys general who have filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit filed in February by Texas, Wisconsin and other states seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act, which provides tax credits for coverage and requires coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions.
“It is an irresponsible action,” Becerra said of the Texas lawsuit. “It is a legally unsound action, and it is a dangerous action for millions of Americans who left the bad days of pre-existing conditions and the inability to get care for their children.”
The lawsuit by Texas challenges Obamacare as unconstitutional, arguing that because Congress has set the penalty for going without insurance at zero, it does not count as a tax. A 2012 Supreme Court decision had upheld the law as a tax.
The motion to intervene by California, New York and other states argues that Texas’ lawsuit is legally insufficient and would cause chaos in the healthcare market.
The federal law has resulted in a reduction in the number of uninsured in California from double digits to about 7%, according to Carmela Coyle, president and CEO of the California Hospital Assn., who joined Becerra at a Sacramento press conference to announce the legal action.
“We can’t let the politics in a handful of states risk and erode the gains that we have made here in this state,” Coyle said.
The intervention to oppose the Texas lawsuit also drew support from Gayle Batiste, a nurse at Dignity Northridge Hospital and president of SEIU 121RN, a union representing registered nurses. She said before the Affordable Care Act, many patients waited until their illnesses were serious before seeing a doctor.
“They were waiting to come into the ER because they could not afford the care,” Batiste said during the event.
The states seeking to intervene have received more than half a trillion dollars in federal funding to provide healthcare to their residents under the federal law, with California getting $160 billion of that money, Becerra said.
“It’s our intent to protect the health of California families,” he added, criticizing the Trump administration for what he said was its history of not defending the Affordable Care Act.