Attorney General Andy Beshear and a coalition of 12 other attorneys general last week took another step in their fight to protect affordable and accessible health care for Kentucky families and millions of families across the country.
In their final brief filed before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the attorneys general urge the court to uphold a lower court’s decision that struck down a change to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Association Health Plan (AHP) Rule, which sought to sidestep consumer protections and sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
In the 111-page brief, the attorneys general argue the rule aims to exempt AHPs from offering critical consumer health protections that the ACA imposes on individual and small group markets.
The brief also highlights the more than 15 organizations and 80 health experts, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Physicians, which have filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of Beshear’s arguments.
“I believe that health care is a basic human right, and that is why I am fighting to ensure every Kentucky family has real health care coverage – especially for lifesaving medications,” said Beshear. “I am standing up to the federal government and Governor Bevin’s attempts to allow certain plans to not cover prescription drugs, maternity care and pediatric services.”
One year ago, the coalition began their fight to block the rule and in March, a district judge ruled in favor of Beshear and the plaintiff states, saying the rule is “clearly an end-run around the ACA” and that it “creates absurd results.”
The suit also claims the rule unlawfully reverses decades of agency and judicial interpretation of ERISA’s key terms with the primary purpose of undermining the ACA, and without accounting for increased risk of fraud or harm to consumers, despite a longstanding history of such conduct by similar plans.
If not upheld, Beshear said the AHPs would be allowed to disregard the protections provided by the ACA’s Essential Health Benefits package including newborn care, mental health services, substance abuse services, prescription drugs and chronic disease management. Plans could discriminate against people with preexisting conditions through expensive riders and increased premiums or by simply not providing comprehensive coverage.
Joining Beshear in filing the brief are attorneys general from New York, California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
In June, Matt Bevin, with a different group of state attorneys general, joined the fight against defending health care protections by filing an opposing friend-of-the-court brief in the case.
Beshear says the Bevin administration’s position threatens health care coverage for Kentuckians, including people with preexisting health conditions.
“As attorney general, I have made it a top priority to fight for affordable, comprehensive health care, because I know, when Kentuckians need to see a doctor or fill a prescription, they don’t need to face another unnecessary roadblock,” Beshear said. “I have and will continue to fight for all our Kentucky families.”
The next step in the case is oral arguments, which are anticipated to occur this fall.
Beshear is also fighting on multiple fronts to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for skyrocketing prescription drug costs.
Beshear has filed lawsuits against more than 100 generic drug makers, three of the nation’s largest insulin makers and has an open investigation into the pharmacy benefits managers, which control the drug markets for several state health benefits programs.