Court Ruling Leaves Health Coverage for Millions Uncertain

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Supreme Court building -- ACA Court Ruling Leaves Health Coverage for Millions Uncertain

Amid the bustle of the holiday season, it was easy to miss a court ruling that many people with diabetes may not see as a gift — even though, for the time being, it left federal protections for people with preexisting health conditions in place.

On December 18, 2019, a federal appeals court ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that most Americans obtain health insurance is unconstitutional. As noted in a Washington Post article on the ruling and its aftermath, the ruling has no immediate practical effect because Congress has already reduced the penalty for not having insurance to $0. But the appeals court sent the question of whether the rest of the law can stand without this penalty back to a lower court, and the same lower court has already ruled that the entire law is unconstitutional.

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In a statement following the ruling, JDRF, the type 1 diabetes research and advocacy group, emphasized its position that protections for people with preexisting health conditions — which are part of the Affordable Care Act, the landmark 2010 federal law — are critical for people with diabetes. Without the law’s protections, health insurance companies could charge much more in premiums to people with a variety of health conditions, or even deny people coverage altogether based on their health history.

The current challenge to the law was brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, and supported by the U.S. Department of Justice under Attorney General William P. Barr. The legal defense of the the law has been left largely to a group of Democratic attorneys general, led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. That coalition has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and rule on the latest challenge during its current term, which ends in June 2020.

As noted in the Post article, the group’s petition to the Supreme Court states that letting the challenge continue in a lower court “would only prolong and exacerbate the uncertainty already caused by this litigation,” and that “states, health insurers, and millions of Americans rely on [the law’s] provisions when making important — indeed, life-changing — decisions.”

Want to learn more about health insurance and diabetes? Read “Health Insurance for Diabetes Management.”

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips on social media

A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree in government from Harvard University. He writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.


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