CLEVELAND — Ohio’s Republican attorney general said Thursday he will file a court brief opposing a federal judge’s ruling that declared the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, potentially leaving nearly 2 million state residents with pre-existing medical conditions without health insurance should the decision be upheld.
Attorney General Dave Yost told The Associated Press that U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in December “got it wrong” when he struck down former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law after Congress eliminated the “individual mandate.” The mandate required people without health insurance to pay fines.
O’Connor, based in Fort Worth, Texas, ruled on a case brought by a group of Republican state attorneys general.
Democratic attorneys general from 17 states appealed O’Connor’s ruling in January at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where Yost said he planned next Monday to file an amicus brief in support of requiring insurers to provide coverage for those with pre-existing medical conditions.
President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday filed a two-sentence letter with the 5th Circuit that said it agrees with O’Connor’s ruling.
Yost said the legal doctrine of severability means that even though one section of legislation is repealed, it doesn’t invalidate the entire law.
“I don’t think the law or the Constitution requires it,” he said.
The Supreme Court has twice upheld the Affordable Care Act and will likely be asked to consider the Texas case as well.
When asked about the Trump administration’s position, Yost said: “Their goal is affordable health care for everybody. I think they’re looking to Congress to pass a better law.”
Yost said he doesn’t necessarily concur with Republicans or Democrats about the Affordable Care Act, but added that “a lot of regular people” agree that health insurers should be required to provide coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
Both Yost and Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine have said they are opposed to fining people who were uninsured. Yost said he spoke with DeWine, who also supports maintaining coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, on Tuesday.
DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said Thursday that should the Affordable Care Act ultimately be overturned, DeWine would ask the state Legislature to take steps to ensure that Ohioans with pre-existing conditions be able to obtain health insurance.