Sixteen Democratic attorneys general intervened Monday in Texas’ lawsuit to kill Obamacare, disagreeing that the Republican-controlled Congress’ gutting of the individual mandate tax penalty last year leaves the law unconstitutional.
Led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the intervenors say Texas’ lawsuit against the federal government is “based on a dubious legal claim with the sole goal of stripping Americans of their health care.”
Becerra told reporters that “we can’t and we won’t go back” to the days before the Affordable Care Act.
“In California, millions of people receive quality, affordable health care under the ACA, many for the first time,” Becerra said at a news conference.
“In addition, the proponents of the Texas lawsuit want to eliminate the preventive care and prescription drug benefits for working families, seniors and people with disabilities. To roll back the clock and risk the health of millions of Americans is irresponsible and dangerous.”
Becerra said California stands to lose over $160 billion in health-care funding and that citizens in the intervening states stand to lose $500 billion if Texas’ lawsuit succeeds.
His 37-page motion to intervene says Illinois will lose almost $50 billion and New York more than $57 billion.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, both Republicans, led a 20-state coalition in suing the federal government in February.
They say Congress’ ending of the individual mandate tax penalty in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 guts the constitutionality of the ACA, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s reasoning that the individual mandate would be an unconstitutional exercise of federal power without the tax penalty. The high court reached that conclusion when it upheld Obamacare subsidies in 2015.
Becerra said Obamacare has survived almost 70 repeal attempts since it was passed into law in 2010.
“But courts have routinely rejected claims that would have gutted its key reforms,” the motion states. “In the landmark [National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius (2012)] decision, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the individual mandate — a requirement that certain people pay a penalty for not obtaining health insurance.”
The intervenors disagree with the plaintiffs’ claim that the law should be thrown out as a whole, saying Congress merely reduced the individual mandate tax penalty, from 2.5 percent to zero.
“This change, effective in 2019, did not repeal any statutory provision of the ACA,” the motion states. “Yet plaintiffs rely on this change to ask this Court to strike down the entire ACA.”
Paxton’s office did not answer telephone calls requesting comment late Monday evening.
Texas and Wisconsin are joined in the lawsuit by Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia.
California’s motion to intervene is joined by Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.