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US Rep. Richard Neal pledges to take ‘immediate action’ to protect ACA in wake of court ruling

December 17, 2018
In The News

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, a Springfield Democrat who is expected to lead the House Ways and Means Committee, pledged to take “immediate action” when the Congress convenes in January to protect the Affordable Care Act and appeal a recent federal court ruling, which struck down the controversial health care law.

Neal, who led floor opposition to Republican-backed efforts to dismantle key components of the law, known as Obamacare, joined other Democratic leaders in condemning a U.S. District Court in Fort Worth’s decision that struck down the entire ACA on Friday, arguing that its mandate requiring Americans to buy health insurance is unconstitutional.

The congressman, in a Friday statement issued with Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr., D-New Jersey, and Education and Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott, D-Virginia, slammed the court’s decision as “reckless," arguing that it “endangers the lives of millions of Americans who are going to lose their health care.”

They further called the court’s ruling in a lawsuit brought by a group of Republican governors and state attorneys general “an ideological decision in a case that has no legal merit.”

Pointing to Democrats' successes in the 2018 midterms, the lawmakers argued that the election served as a referendum on "how important access to health coverage and protections for pre-existing conditions are for American families."

Neal, Pallone and Scott called for an emergency stay “of this heartless ruling” and pledged to "take immediate action in the new Congress to intervene in this case and appeal this decision."

“House Democrats will do whatever it takes to make sure the protections enshrined in the Affordable Care Act endure,” they said. “The lives and wellbeing of millions of Americans -- including those living with pre-existing conditions -- are on the line.”

Federal District Court Judge Reed O’Connor, in his ruling, said the individual coverage mandate “can no longer be sustained as an exercise of Congress’s tax power," according to reports. Therefore, O’Connor argued, “the individual mandate is unconstitutional” and invalidates the rest of the health care law.

The case centered around the question of whether the ACA’s insurance mandate still required Americans to purchase health coverage after Congress essentially removed the penalty as part of its GOP-backed tax overhaul bill, which President Donald Trump signed into law last year.

Plaintiff states contended that the mandate had become unconstitutional when lawmakers zeroed out the penalty. The rest of the law, they further argued, is tied to the mandate.

California and the other defendant states have said they will challenge the ruling with an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the mandate as constitutional in 2012 based on Congress’s taxing power.

Neal, Pallone and Scott previously condemned the Trump administration in June after the Justice Department announced it would not defend key provisions of the Affordable Care Act in the court case.

They argued that DOJ’s refusal to defend the controversial health care law could eliminate protections for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions and “have profound consequences for patients, the health care system and the American economy.”