Washington – The National Health Law Program (NHeLP) has filed a “friend of the court” brief in federal court in California on behalf of Families USA, NHeLP, and 29 other health care and consumer advocacy groups, in support of a federal lawsuit challenging President Trump’s decision to end the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing reduction payments. The brief addresses the immediate harms that consumers are experiencing as a result of Trump’s decision to stop paying the ACA’s cost-sharing reduction payments that help limited-income Americans pay for their health insurance. The brief was filed in support of the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by the California Attorney General and the attorneys general of 17 other states and the District of Columbia challenging the Trump administration’s decision.
The friend-of-the-court brief discusses the confusion that the administration’s action is creating for consumers and explains how the action will result in higher costs for health insurance, leaving many limited-income individuals and families unable to afford health insurance. Amici Families USA shares reactions from Lynn in Illinois, who says that, without the ACA’s cost-sharing reduction payments, she and her husband, both with pre-existing conditions, will not be able to afford their health care. “Our premiums would be over $2,000 a month. The medications we need are necessary to LIVE … but I don’t know how we will afford them. My heart hurts this morning,” she said.
The groups also argue in their brief that Trump’s action to end the cost-sharing reduction payments was the “most destructive act in an ongoing refusal to faithfully execute” the ACA. The Trump administration’s hostile actions toward the ACA, starting with the president’s first executive order on Jan. 20, 2017, are inconsistent with his constitutional duty “under Article II, Section 3, to ‘take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,’” the amicus brief states. The brief then tracks some of the actions taken by the administration to rewrite, instead of upholding, the law of the land.
“The Administration’s systemic disregard of both its legal duties under the Constitution and the health care needs of millions of Marketplace consumers culminated in President Trump’s October 12 decision to stop CSR payments,” the groups’ amicus brief states. “At 2:36 in the morning of October 13, he tweeted, ‘The Democrats Obamacare is imploding. Massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies has stopped.’ Unfortunately, the consequences for consumers will be severe and irreparable, unless this court takes action.”
NHeLP Senior Attorney Abigail Coursolle said that California health agencies are taking action to counter the Trump administration’s abdication of the law, but even those actions would likely be ineffective because of communicating the changes quickly and effectively to consumers. “Years of behavioral economics research shows that adding even minor steps to enrollment procedures can greatly reduce participation levels,” Coursolle said. “Where states take no action whatsoever the situation is made far more difficult to save large numbers of vulnerable people from losing access to life-saving care.”
NHeLP Legal Director Jane Perkins blasted the administration for flouting the landmark health care law and putting in jeopardy the health care of tens of millions of people who elected him to office. “Unable to pressure Congress to repeal the ACA, President Trump has been rewriting it.” Perkins said. “However, the Constitution says the president must execute laws faithfully. We hope the federal court will immediately step in to protect the ACA’s cost sharing reductions and ensure that hard working Americans maintain access to affordable health care.”
Downlaod and read the brief here.
Please contact NHeLP’s Director of Communications Jeremy Leaming for further comment from Coursolle or Perkins.