Health

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear is joining attorneys general from 14 other states and the District of Columbia in appealing last week’s federal court ruling that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional. For now, the ruling doesn’t change any ongoing ACA programs, including Medicaid expansion or coverage for pre-existing conditions.

“As your attorney general I will fight this ruling through every motion and every appeal that is necessary until we win for our families,” Beshear said at a press conference Monday.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled in favor of 18 Republican state attorneys general and two governors who filed a lawsuit challenging the ACA. They argued that because President Donald Trump last year signed legislation that did away with the individual mandate penalty, the law is unconstitutional, according to reporting from Kaiser Health News.

Diane Rowland, the executive vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said the ruling does not affect people who gained health insurance as a result of the ACA.

“People should know that their coverage is secure, that the plans that they’ve been enrolled in for 2019 are plans that they will be covered by, and those who have been covered through their state Medicaid program will retain that coverage,” she said.

She added that though the overhaul of the ACA would have a huge impact on people, many legal experts who’ve read the ruling don’t think it’ll go far.

“Many, many of the legal scholars who have looked at this do not think that this will ultimately jeopardize the implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” Rowland said.

Beshear said while he believes O’Connor’s ruling has many legal flaws, if courts ultimately uphold the decision it would still threaten health care coverage for 1.3 million Kentuckians who gained coverage through Medicaid expansion and the individual market and benefited in other ways. The ACA guaranteed women pregnancy coverage, allowed young adults under age 26 to stay on parents’ employer health insurance and gave many Kentuckians access care even with a pre-existing condition.

“This ruling threatens health care coverage for all Americans,” Beshear said. “But it’s devastating impacts on Kentucky, given the health of our people, I believe is more stark than just about any other state in the country.”

The Affordable Care Act increased the number of people with health coverage in Kentucky. In 2009, 40 percent of Kentucky adults with low incomes living in rural areas and small towns didn’t have health insurance. In 2016, that number had dropped to 13 percent.

According to a ranking report from the United Health Foundation, Kentucky’s overall health was 42nd in the nation in 2018. That number marks an improvement over last year when the state was ranked 45th.

Attorneys general in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia will appeal the ruling.

Beshear first joined these states in an attempt to intervene in the Texas lawsuit back in April. The case will likely go through a lengthy courts process, and a final decision might not be made until it ends up back in the Supreme Court, according to reporting from Kaiser Health News.

This story has been updated.

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.