By MEGHAN OTTOLINI | July 9, 2019
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey voiced her defense of the Affordable Care Act Tuesday, rallying with Obamacare supporters hours before the U.S. Court of Appeals heard oral arguments over the law’s constitutionality.
“This isn’t just a fight about the law, it’s a fight about country, our values, and whether we’re going to take care of one another,” Healey said, standing on the harbor side of the John Joseph Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston.
With Healey’s stance, Massachusetts joins 16 other states defending the ACA in Texas v. United States, which will be tried in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Louisiana. The law’s latest challenge comes nine years after President Obama first enacted the legislation, and after two Supreme Court cases.
Texas U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor declared the ACA unconstitutional after Congress’s 2017 decision to scrap the individual mandate tax penalty, changing it to zero. Plaintiffs in the case argue that without the penalty the ACA is unconstitutional, as Chief Justice John Roberts declared the individual mandate a tax back his 2012 Supreme Court decision.
According to a Jan. 3 motion filed to the U.S. House of Representatives, Judge O’Connor declared that if the individual mandate is unconstitutional, the entire ACA must fall, arguing that it is “unseverable from the rest of the statute.”
Texas has been joined by 17 other states, the White House, and the Department of Justice in its challenge, drawing sharp-tongued criticism from the Bay State’s top attorney.
“Our federal government and Republicans in Washington are obsessed with taking away people’s health care,” Healey said.
Bay State advocates for the ACA said they fear local consequences of striking down the law.
“Over 220,000 people here in Massachusetts depend on subsidies available through the health connector as a result of the Affordable Care Act,” said Amy Rosenthal, executive director of the Massachusetts nonprofit Health Care For All.
Ipswich resident and American Heart Association advocate Diane Pickles shared the story of her son, Jake, who depends on Obamacare for treatment of a complex congenital heart defect. Under Obamacare, 24-year-old Jake has two more years on his parents’ insurance, ensuring that he can afford necessary surgeries — which may include a transplant.
“To those who are fighting to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, I say this: if you have never known the pain of worrying that your child will likely not outlive you, I pray you never will,” Pickles said. “If you, like me, have come close to losing a child, you know that it is more than enough for you and the child to worry about that mortality without worrying about whether an insurance company will deem you and your child an acceptable risk.”
A panel of three judges will hear the case: Carolyn Dineen King, appointed by President Jimmy Carter, Jennifer Walker Elrod, appointed by President George W. Bush, and Kurt Engelhardt, appointed by President Trump.
READ MORE ON BOSTONHERALD.COM