This week the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit joined the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals (which has appellate jurisdiction over federal district courts in Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee, and Ohio) in upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
We do not regard the ACA as a perfect piece of legislation. We are particularly disappointed that undocumented immigrants will not be allowed to purchase insurance on the exchanges with their own money and that lawful permanent residents will continue to be subject to a bar that restricts their access to public benefits, including Medicaid, for five years after obtaining legal immigration status. Even so, the ACA is tremendous step forward in improving health, realizing human dignity, and achieving justice for everyone in the United States, including more than 50 million Latinos. We applaud the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for keeping the ACA on the path towards full implementation and keeping the U.S. on the path towards affordable (and we hope eventually universal) access to healthcare.
This decision also adds to an already existing split in the circuits that have heard and decided the issue of the ACA’s constitutionality—earlier this year, the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which includes federal district courts in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, held parts of the ACA unconstitutional. When different circuits reach different conclusions about the same question, it becomes increasingly likely that the Supreme Court will take a case and resolve the discrepancy. In addition, the Obama administration has asked the court to jump which could mean that the Supreme Court could decide as early as today whether to hear the case.
This D.C. appellate circuit court decision is only the latest in a series of offensives and counteroffensive responses to attacks on the ACA since it was signed into law in March 2010. States have mounted a two-prong offensive to the ACA. Through the legislature, they have proposed and passed laws contradictory to ACA provisions, particularly the individual mandate which requires almost all individuals to carry health insurance. And through the courts, they have attacked the law’s constitutionality—again, with particular focus on the individual mandate—arguing that the scope of the ACA exceeds the federal government’s substantive law-making power.
This piece of legislation, which will make private insurance coverage more affordable and accessible for many Americans, expand Medicaid coverage to more low-income individuals, and ensure that women have access to preventive care that includes contraception and sterilization, has also seen federal-level challenges. One of the most vehemently attacked provisions has been on the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) interim final rule recognizing the importance of access to family planning by requiring most insurance plans under the ACA to include coverage for contraception and sterilization.
The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health is the nation’s only reproductive health policy and advocacy organization working on behalf of the reproductive health and justice of the nation’s Latina women. As implementation of the health care reform law continues, we will be working hard to make sure that the voices of Latinas and their families are heard every step of the way.