17 AGs defend ACA against legal effort to dismantle the law

Gavel court room lawsuit judge
Led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Democratic states are pushing back on a lawsuit to strike down the ACA. (Pixabay)

Seventeen attorneys general are pushing back against a federal lawsuit that seeks to completely dismantle the Affordable Care Act, the latest in a long string of repeal efforts by Republicans.

Joined by 15 other states and the District of Columbia, Xavier Becerra, attorney general of California, intervened (PDF) in a lawsuit filed by 20 states earlier this year. Becerra defended the 2010 law, saying the public's health is at stake.

"To roll back the clock and risk the health of millions of Americans is irresponsible and dangerous," he said in a statement. "We can’t and we won’t go back.”

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The lawsuit in question, filed in February in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Texas, referenced the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling which upheld the government’s constitutional authority to levy taxes against individuals but stated that the individual mandate alone was unconstitutional.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the court's decision to uphold the law hinged on the support of Congress' authority to tax. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 removed the financial penalty for not purchasing insurance, which "kicked that flimsy support from beneath the law," Paxton said. 

RELATED: 20 states sue to eliminate the ACA, citing provisions of the new tax law

The plaintiffs are seeking a permanent injunction against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Internal Revenue Service from implementing or enforcing the law and asking the court to declare the ACA unconstitutional.

If successful, the suit would also stop the Medicaid expansion, end tax credits and end pre-existing condition protections, among all other provisions under the law. 

"The Texas lawsuit is based on a dubious legal claim with the sole goal of stripping Americans of their healthcare,” the California AG added.

The fight is entirely along party lines, as all 17 defending attorneys general are Democrats and the lawsuit was brought by 20 Republican state leaders. 

Republicans at both the state and federal level have called for a full repeal of the 2010 law for years. This week, while announcing regulations to ACA's essential health benefits requirements, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said in a phone call with reporters that Congress needed to completely repeal the ACA or Americans would continue to suffer.