As Texas Judge Rules ACA ‘Invalid,’ Access Health CT Extends 2019 Signup Period

A rally in February of 2017 supporting the Affordable Care Act. Photo credit: Ted Eytan. Courtesy of CTMirror.org

Access Health CT’s CEO says that the Texas ruling will not impact the ability of Connecticut residents to obtain 2019 insurance plans.

By Ana Radelat, CTMirror.org

As state officials condemned a ruling by a Texas federal judge that strikes down the Affordable Care Act, Connecticut’s exchange – Access Health CT – announced Saturday it would extend the 2019 signup period by another month.

Although residents still must sign up for a policy on the exchange by midnight on Saturday to obtain coverage that begins Jan. 1, they now have until Jan. 15 to enroll in a policy that provides coverage as of Feb. 1.

Access Health CT said it wants Connecticut residents to understand that the Texas ruling does not affect their ability to sign up for and use 2019 health insurance plans.

“Access Health CT is the official marketplace under the Affordable Care Act in Connecticut and we are committed to upholding the ACA and the support it provides to the residents of our state,” said Access Health CT Chief Executive Officer James Michel. “We will not let this news get in the way of fulfilling our mission to reduce the rate of the uninsured and help Connecticut residents get health insurance coverage for them and their families.”

Late Friday, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled the ACA “invalid” because a massive tax overhaul removed a penalty imposed on people who did not have insurance coverage. The ruling is in response to a case brought by 20 Republican attorneys general.

Without the tax penalty, which the Supreme Court had ruled was constitutional under the Commerce Clause, the “individual mandate” in the ACA is unconstitutional, the Texas judge ruled.

The rest of the law cannot be separated from the individual mandate and is therefore invalid, O’Connor wrote.

Attorneys general from 17 states defending the ACA in the Texas lawsuit, including Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, immediately said they are preparing to challenge the decision.

“The decision in the Texas ACA case is flat-out wrong, contrary to the law and contrary to the democratically expressed will of the people,” Jepsen said. “We are actively discussing next steps in the case with our colleagues in other states, and we anticipate joining them in appealing this decision.”​

The appeal would be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which considers cases from Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

That court has a conservative bent, and may uphold O’Connor’s ruling. But whatever the court decides, the case is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court.

The White House applauded the Texas ruling, but said the law remains in place while appeals proceed. President Donald Trump tweeted that Congress should pass a new law.

As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster!” Trump tweeted. “Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions.”

Connecticut’s Democratic lawmakers condemned the Texas ruling.

“President Trump and Republican Party officials across the country have long been on the warpath to rip healthcare coverage away from tens of millions of Americans helped by the Affordable Care Act – including those who were previously discriminated against due to pre-existing conditions,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District. “The Texas Court’s decision brought their relentless, immoral pursuit one step closer. But they will not have the last word.”

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a staunch champion of the ACA in Congress, took to Twitter to condemn the court’s ruling as a partisan attack.

“20 Republican AGs brought this suit, supported by Trump. Tonight, they are celebrating that 20 million of you might have just lost your health care. My god,” Murphy tweeted Friday evening.

Reprinted with permission of The Connecticut Mirror. The author can be reached at [email protected].

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