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5 Lawsuits That Could Change U.S. Health Care

by Kate Harveston, published

Malpractice lawsuits happen every day, and most people don't think twice about them until they're the subject of one. In most cases, these lawsuits only affect the individuals involved, but in rare cases, a lawsuit comes around that could change the shape of the health care industry as a whole. Let's take a closer look at five lawsuits that could do just that.

Columbus v. Trump

In 2018, three cities — Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Columbus, Ohio — sued President Trump, alleging that he and his administration were waging a campaign to sabotage the Affordable Care Act that was implemented by the previous presidential administration. This campaign is allegedly leaving thousands without health insurance, either because of changing coverage maps or because they simply can no longer afford it.

While this lawsuit is still awaiting a hearing in the Maryland federal district court, if successful, it could undo the damage that has been done by the Trump administration. It will mark the first time that a sitting president has been legally rebuked for refusing to follow the laws established by a former administration. It could also set a precedent that no one, not even the sitting president, is above the law — something that Trump has, up until this point, largely disregarded.

Texas v. Azar

On the other side of the coin, there is Texas v Azar. Republican governors are working toward the same goal as the president: abolishing the Affordable Care Act. This isn't just the act of Texas — 19 other red states argue that eliminating the penalty for being uninsured rendered the mandate unconstitutional. They say the mandate and the entire ACA needs to be discarded.

It would be a catastrophic loss for those who were unable to obtain health care coverage before the Affordable Care Act was implemented in 2010. More than 17 million individuals will lose their health care without the ACA. If these legislators are successful, it could turn the entire industry on its ear.

West Alabama Women's Center v. Miller

In 2016, the ACLU assisted the West Alabama Women's Center in contesting three laws that were established in Alabama to outlaw abortion even though the federal ruling in Roe v. Wade allows women to pursue safe and legal abortions from trained medical professionals.

The three laws forced abortion clinics within 2,000 feet of K-8 schools to close down, banned medical professionals from providing abortions and required that abortion providers give each patient a copy of their medical records whether they want them or not.

Thankfully, the District Court for the Middle District of Alabama was able to block these three laws from taking effect. If these laws had passed successfully, it could have made it impossible for women in Alabama to access safe and legal abortions without leaving the state.

Stewart v. Azar

In 2018, 16 individuals enrolled in Medicaid in Kentucky brought a lawsuit against the secretary of health and human services. Kentucky's Medicaid program implemented a number of changes, including work requirements, monthly premiums, coverage lockouts, a higher share of cost for non-emergency ER visits and other provisions that made it impossible for the people that needed it to utilize their benefits.

This is another case that set a new precedent. The court decided that the plaintiffs — in this case, the Medicaid recipients — were allowed to bring a lawsuit against the department of health and human services. The ruling in July of 2018 prevented Kentucky from implementing the new provisions because of the injury that it would cause to Medicaid recipients.

New York v. Acosta

In 2018, 11 states and the District of Columbia sued to fix the ACA. The Trump administration made it easier for small-business owners who don't meet the minimum standards for purchasing an insurance plan for their employees to band together and buy collective plans. The group of legislators who are against this change alleges that this change would undermine the ACA's goal of ensuring everyone can obtain the necessary minimum insurance protections. As of the time of this writing, this case is still awaiting judgment.

If this lawsuit is not successful, it could make it more difficult for individuals to obtain personal or family insurance policies if one of these small businesses employs them. It could also limit the plans that would be available to these employees.

These lawsuits are just a small sampling of the others that could change the shape of the health care industry. Most of these suits are still awaiting judgment, but once rulings are complete, the widespread impacts will remain to be seen.

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