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AARP Seeks to Preserve Health Care Reform Law

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), enacted after lengthy deliberation, was challenged by many states, organizations and individuals. AARP filed amicus briefs in three appellate courts explaining how the law was a measured response to a national crisis. AARP will file a similar brief with the Supreme Court.

Background


When the ACA was enacted in March 2010, 45 million Americans did not have health insurance, primarily because they could not afford it and health care costs were outpacing the rate of inflation. Congress recognized that people were falling into financial ruin or foregoing critical medical care (or both) when faced with health care needs they could not afford to address. The problem was particularly acute among older people, who have a higher incidence of chronic health conditions and also more often live on fixed or limited incomes and for whom an unanticipated expense poses particular problems.

Challenges in numerous federal courts were brought. The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Nov. 14, 2011, that it will settle the matter by reviewing the constitutionality of the individual mandate and, if unconstitutional, whether the mandate is severable from the rest of the law. Also to be reviewed is the applicability of the tax anti-injunction act provisions (in other words, is the dispute ripe for consideration yet) and the constitutionality of the Medicaid expansion provisions.

AARP's "friend of the court" brief, submitted by AARP Foundation Litigation attorneys, will inform the Court, as it has courts below, that older people without employer-provided health insurance who do not qualify for Medicaid and do not yet qualify for Medicare are systematically denied coverage or priced out of the private market due to their age or pre-existing health conditions. It will spotlight how uninsured and underinsured people suffer worse health outcomes and require more intensive and costlier care when they enter Medicare, and argue that the ACA provides a measured and effective response to these problems.

What's at Stake

People age 50-64, who need to buy health insurance on the private market, have been especially harmed by current health insurance industry underwriting practices. That population needs more health services and is more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions than younger counterparts, yet that segment of the population faces extreme obstacles in the private market due to industry-wide insurance underwriting and rating practices that discriminate based on health status and age.

Case Status

The Court agreed to review Florida v. HHS, the case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit that found the individual mandate unconstitutional but allowed the remainder of the law to stand. The cases which the Court did not decide to review had either upheld the mandate or decided that the cases were not yet appropriate for review (Thomas More Law Center v. Obama, Liberty University v. Geithner, Virginia v. Sebelius, and Seven-Sky v. Holder) .The Supreme Court will hear extended oral argument (possibly in March) and make a final decision by June 2012.

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