Organizations urge FL A.G. Moody to withdraw from U.S. Supreme Court challenge to Affordable Care Act

U.S. Supreme Court, Dec. 2, 2019. Credit: Robin Bravender

Some 200 organizations and individuals have signed a letter urging Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody to withdraw from a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act that the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear early next month.

The letter, signatories to which include the Florida Health Justice Project and an array of social justice, health care, labor, and political-action organizations, argue the outcome threatens the health and well-being of Floridians who lack access to employer-provided insurance.

“Our plea is made in light of the potentially devastating consequences that could flow from the court’s ruling,” the letter says.

Florida Attorney Ashley Moody (from the Florida Channel)

“The timing could not be worse, as Floridians continue to battle COVID-19, as well as the economic devastation of the shut-down. Any ruling that results in the weakening or repeal of the ACA would further undermine the health and well-being of millions of Floridians already suffering due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”

Moody’s office declined to discuss the case. “Our office is party to this litigation and it would not be appropriate to discuss the ongoing proceedings,” spokeswoman Lauren Cassedy said in a emailed statement.

Cassedy added: “Attorney General Moody has consistently supported the protection of those with pre-existing conditions and has successfully advocated the Florida Legislature to make changes to do so for all Floridians.”

The justices have set oral arguments for Nov. 10 in a Texas case arising from the law’s requirement that individuals buy health insurance or else pay a financial penalty — the “individual mandate.” The court upheld the law in 2012, ruling that the mandate amounted to a legitimate tax. Florida is one of 17 states that joined the case on the Texas side.

Congress voted in 2017 to effectively set the penalty at zero dollars. The argument now is that, because mandate no longer raises government revenue, its continued existence amounts to an unconstitutional imposition on individuals. If the justices conclude the mandate is pivotal to the law, they could strike down the entire statute.

The letter argues that 1.5 million Floridians would lose coverage, not including an equal number who’d be covered if the state expanded Medicaid coverage under the ACA. Another 8.4 million Floridians benefit from the ACA’s ban on discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, the letter says.

The document cites legal scholars who have called the case against the law as “absurd, ludicrous, flimsy, and far-fetched.”

“We are pleading with the attorney general to save millions of Floridians from the catastrophic loss of health insurance in the middle of a pandemic,” Miriam Harmatz, executive director of Florida Health Justice Project, one of the authors of the letter, said in a written statement.

“Attorney General Moody has done a tremendous amount of work on behalf of Florida seniors and persons with disabilities, and we are urging that she save Floridians from the incomprehensible amount of suffering that would result from repealing the ACA,” Harmatz said.

“Since its major provisions went into effect in 2014, the ACA has been key in reducing health care disparities nationwide and ensuring that Floridians have access to life-saving medications and crucial health services,” said Sadaf Knight, CEO of Florida Policy Institute.

“Now would be the worst time to take that away from people. We strongly urge Attorney General Moody to withdraw Florida from this lawsuit,” Knight added.

“Florida consistently leads all other states using the federal marketplace in enrollment,” said Scott Darius, executive director of Florida Voices for Health. “Arguing for the repeal of the ACA goes against what Floridians have demonstrated is important to us.”