Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
Dec 18 2019

SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson offers the following statement on a ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on the Affordable Care Act (ACA):

“We will keep fighting in the courts to protect Washingtonians’ access to affordable health care.”

In its ruling, the Fifth Circuit struck down the ACA’s individual mandate, but sent the rest of the case back to the federal district court in Texas. The appeals court instructed the lower court to conduct additional analysis before issuing a decision on whether the 2017 Congress intended to invalidate the Affordable Care Act when it reduced the tax penalty used to enforce the individual mandate to zero.

Republican Attorneys General, led by Texas, filed the challenge to the ACA in February 2018 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

In a brief filed in June 2018, the Trump Administration declared that it would not defend the ACA against the challenge by the Republican Attorneys General. In a letter to Congressional leaders, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the decision not to defend the ACA was made “with the approval of the President of the United States.”

Because of the Administration’s decision, Ferguson, 15 states and the District of Columbia filed a motion to intervene in the case on the side of the federal government to defend the ACA. This is not one of Ferguson’s 53 lawsuits against the Trump Administration.

More than 800,000 Washingtonians depend on the ACA for their health care. Since the ACA went into effect, Washington’s uninsured rate dropped by 60 percent, and now fewer than 6 percent of Washingtonians are without health insurance.

If the ACA is eliminated, Washingtonians would lose an average of $295 per month in federal premium subsidies, and more than 600,000 people enrolled in Apple Health as part of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion would lose coverage. Insurers would once again be allowed to discriminate based on medical history, and patients would again be subject to annual and lifetime limits to their health benefits.

Ferguson has defended the ACA on multiple occasions, including defending against a previous challenge to the law by the U.S. House of Representatives, and filing a lawsuit to ensure critical funding would continue. Ferguson also filed two “friend of the court” briefs in cases challenging tax credits for low- and middle-income people buying health insurance (Halbig v. Burwell and King v. Burwell).

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The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.

Contacts:

Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.aho@atg.wa.gov