Challenge to short-term plans joins chorus of ACA lawsuits
While the decision on a Republican-backed lawsuit to dismantle the Affordable Care Act remains pending in Texas, supporters of the ACA filed multiple suits in recent days in hopes of protecting the health law.
In a case filed in Washington, D.C. on Friday, patient advocates and healthcare groups aim to stop the Trump administration from expanding short-term health plans, which aren't required to offer the same benefits as ACA-compliant plans.
In another suit involving the ACA, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat, seeks to uphold the law's constitutionality. He said the Trump administration is trying to "sabotage" the landmark law and those efforts could "jeopardize the health of Marylanders."
In the Washington lawsuit, plaintiffs said expanding short-term plans will hurt the ACA exchanges and make it more expensive to purchase that coverage. Plus, short-term plan members won't have protections like essential health benefits, which are mandated by the ACA, and people with pre-existing conditions may have difficulty finding coverage.
The plaintiffs include the Association for Community Affiliated Plans, the National Partnership for Women and Families, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health America and the American Psychiatric Association. The Department of the Treasury, Department of Labor and HHS are all named in the suit.
In July, the Trump administration filed regulations to allow anyone to get short-term coverage starting in 2019. Currently, only young people and those who can't afford other coverage are eligible for short-term plans, and they can only keep them for three months.
The administration is looking to open such plans up to everyone and extend their availability to a year. Plus, under the new plan, Americans could re-up short-term plans for three years.
Meanwhile, the Maryland lawsuit seeks to get affirmation that the ACA is constitutional and that the administration must stop trying to dismantle it. Dropping the ACA could hurt the healthcare of millions of Marylanders, cause problems in the state budget and destabilize the health insurance markets and healthcare system, the Maryland AG's office said.
"Their attempts to sabotage this life-saving law and jeopardize the health of Marylanders who rely on it cannot stand. We are taking action to protect and ensure healthcare coverage for every Marylander and all Americans," Frosh said in a statement.
Frosh's lawsuit comes a month after Maryland received a federal waiver that allows the state to run a reinsurance program. Insurance companies will pay a one-year state tax to help fund the program, which will contain member costs and rates in the exchanges.
Meanwhile, the pending case in Texas claims that the ACA is unconstitutional after the Republican-led Congress killed the individual mandate penalty. The individual mandate was one of the key parts of the ACA, but also one of its most unpopular provisions. The Department of Justice isn't defending the ACA in court and concurs that the law is unconstitutional.
One of the most well-liked parts of the ACA, however, also hangs in the balance. If the law's protections for people with pre-existing conditions go away, Republicans could face backlash in the November elections.
Senate Republicans recently introduced a bill that would maintain some coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, but critics, including Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, say the proposal isn't as strong as what the ACA already protects