Washington, D.C. – The Arc is deeply troubled by Wednesday’s Federal Appeals Court ruling in Texas v. United States jeopardizing the health care of millions of people with disabilities. In a disappointing decision, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) unconstitutional. In sending the case back to the lower court that previously declared the entire ACA unconstitutional, the opinion leaves uncertain how much of the ACA will ultimately be struck down, putting the law and all of its vital protections at risk in the future.
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) who rely on the ACA could lose access to affordable and necessary health care, as well as important protections for people with disabilities and other pre-existing conditions.
The hard-fought expansion of Medicaid under the ACA is also at risk. More than 17 million people who gained coverage as a result of the expansion now face the cruel reality of possibly losing it including many people with disabilities. The relentless advocacy of The Arc and allies in the Medicaid fight of 2017 to preserve the ACA could be undone, causing irreparable harm to people with disabilities and their families, who face frustrating challenges accessing affordable and quality health care. Also, the decision itself points out that other important Medicaid programs that have moved people with disabilities back to their communities, such as the Community First Choice Option, hang in the balance.
“This decision is a threat to people with disabilities and their families. The Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions are the most important non-discrimination protections in health care. The ACA has been critical to improving health care access for people with disabilities,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc. “While this decision won’t have an immediate impact, the potentially harmful consequences are widely understood – even the Fifth Circuit decision notes that the impact to people with disabilities must be a consideration. We fully support plans by several state attorneys general to challenge the decision all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. People should know that the ACA remains the law of the land for now and any insurance coverage remains intact. The Arc has fought for accessible health care for people with I/DD every step of the way and we will continue to do so.”
In April, The Arc and several other organizations representing people with disabilities filed an amicus brief to urge the Fifth Circuit to reverse a lower court ruling finding the ACA unconstitutional. The brief outlined how the ACA has been essential to overcoming the disproportionate impact that America’s health care crisis has had on people with disabilities, and how it is uniquely difficult for people with disabilities to obtain affordable and adequate health insurance coverage despite depending on health care services more than those without disabilities.