Texas Judge Strikes Down ACA, Jeopardizing Mental Health Care for Millions

Statement from NAMI California

Sacramento, CA - On Friday, Dec. 14, U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor ruled that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional in the case Texas v. USA. The ruling notes that the individual mandate penalty – zeroed out by Congress one year ago – is so central to the ACA that without it, the entire ACA is unconstitutional.

NAMI California is closely following this ruling, which will be appealed, and may be overturned. As it stands, this ruling poses a direct threat to mental health care for millions of Californians.  Without protections afforded under the ACA, we would see the clock turned back on parity and patient protections. Without the ACA:

  • Millions of individuals and families covered through Medicaid expansion, including people with mental illness, would lose their coverage.

  • Millions of individuals who purchase individual or small group health insurance plans would lose important protections—and could even lose their coverage. These plans would no longer be required to:  

    • Cover preexisting conditions, like mental illness

    • Guarantee coverage to everyone who applies

    • Provide parity coverage for mental health and substance use conditions 

  • Americans who have health insurance through their employer would 

    • Lose their right to preventive services

    • Lose coverage of children to age 26

    • See lifetime and annual dollar limits of coverage reappear 

NAMI California strongly supports the right of all individuals to access needed mental health care. In particular, parity and coverage for pre-existing conditions – two critical protections for ensuing quality mental health care and treatment – must be protected.

As of now, no one will lose their coverage or have patient protections stripped away from their health plan. The White House issued a statement regarding the ruling that read, “We expect this ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court. Pending the appeal process, the law remains in place." 

In response to concerns that confusion over the ruling may have deterred individuals from signing up for health insurance, Covered California, the state’s health care marketplace, has extended enrolling deadlines for individuals signing up for coverage. Anyone enrolling through Dec. 21 will see coverage start Jan. 1. Anyone enrolling between Dec. 22 and Jan. 15 will see their coverage start on Feb. 1.

NAMI California will continue to monitor this situation and support efforts to protect essential coverage and patient protections for individuals living with mental illness.