Md. Officials Vow to Fight for Affordable Care Act

Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) is fighting to preserve the Affordable Care Act in court.

Maryland backers of the Affordable Care Act reacted with anger and alarm to a court ruling striking down President Obama’s signature health law over the weekend. They predicted that the ruling, by a judge in Texas late Friday, will be overturned on appeal, and they warned that considerable harm will come to millions of Americans if it is not.

“The Texas Court’s decision striking down the entire Affordable Care Act will have a devastating impact on Maryland families,” said Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D).

“Hundreds of thousands will lose health insurance coverage altogether, and millions more who have pre-existing conditions will be endangered as well.”

In a Facebook post, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said, “If upheld, this [ruling] will threaten access to coverage and important protections for millions of people, potentially leaving them with astronomically high costs or no health care coverage at all. This lawsuit very well may end up before the Supreme Court, and we are on red alert. We must fight back!”

Vincent DeMarco, head of the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative, called the ruling a “devastating blow.”

“We hope that a higher court will reverse it based on weak legal grounding and the grave harm overturning the ACA would cause to millions of Marylanders and Americans nationwide,” he said in a statement.

“Judge [Reed] O’Connor’s ruling contradicts two prior Supreme Court rulings upholding the constitutionality of the ACA and sides with the 17 attorneys general and two governors who filed the politically motivated lawsuit to gut the ACA after Congress failed to repeal it.”

DeMarco is working with members of the General Assembly on a measure designed to encourage Maryland residents to sign up for health insurance. It would reinstate at the state level the $700/month penalty on persons without coverage, a levy that Congress eliminated in its 2017 tax overhaul. But rather than have the state collect the fine, the bill would combine the $700 with federal tax credits to purchase coverage for willing individuals.

That legislation, which advocates called a health care “down-payment,” stalled in this year’s General Assembly session but may get a renewed push in 2019 now that the fate of the national law is in question. Massachusetts has had its own individual health care mandate since 2006, enacted under Republican Gov. Mitt Romney – it served as the model for the Affordable Care Act – and New Jersey, Vermont and the District of Columbia followed suit last year.

While Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) has been noncommittal on the health care down-payment legislation in Maryland, through a spokeswoman he decried the court decision and said he expects it to be overturned.

“Under Governor Hogan’s leadership, Maryland has been nationally recognized for making healthcare more accessible and affordable, despite continued dysfunction in Washington,” Amelia Chasse, the governor’s communications director, said in a statement to Maryland Matters. “The governor opposes any actions that would cause Marylanders to lose healthcare coverage, and doesn’t expect this ruling to stand. Washington should follow Maryland’s lead and work in a bipartisan manner to find common sense healthcare solutions instead of continued partisan bickering that accomplishes nothing.”

Frosh sued the Trump administration in September for failing to defend the ACA. That suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, seeks declaratory judgment that Obamacare, which was upheld in two Supreme Court rulings, is constitutional.

“Our lawsuit to protect the ACA continues here in Maryland,” Frosh said. “We will continue our fight to defend its constitutionality and to protect the health and lives of our people who depend upon it.”

A hearing on that case is set for Wednesday in Baltimore.

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