In March 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as the ACA, was signed into law. The law reforms aspects of the private health insurance industry and expands access to health insurance for millions of Americans.
The constitutionality of the law was promptly challenged in federal court in several jurisdictions. The United States Supreme Court will hear the appeals in these cases during its 2011-12 term and has scheduled oral argument for March 2012.
Because of the importance of this legislation to people living with HIV, Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on January 13, 2012. CHLP is one of sixteen national HIV advocacy organizations to sign on to the brief in support of the federal government's position that the ACA's minimum coverage requirement (also known as the individual mandate) is constitutional under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause.
The ACA's reforms include expanded Medicaid coverage, elimination of pre-existing condition exclusions, and the minimum coverage requirement. These reforms are essential to expanding care and prevention strategies in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The amicus brief argues that the health care insurance market has failed to serve individuals living with HIV, with dire public health and economic consequences. With full access to health insurance, the HIV/AIDS epidemic could be stemmed. Prior to the ACA, the health insurance market drastically limited access to care for those with HIV. Private insurers have systematically excluded those with HIV.
Public programs provide an incomplete and inadequate patchwork of coverage. The insurance market's failure to provide coverage to individuals with HIV has dire economic and public health consequences. The failure of the insurance market takes a staggering public health and economic toll. The combined effect of the HIV epidemic and lack of insurance falls hardest on already marginalized groups.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic illustrates why Congress's enactment of the ACA was within its constitutional authority. The ACA is necessary and proper to Congress's exercise of its power under the Commerce Clause. The HIV/AIDS epidemic demonstrates that Congress was also within its Commerce Clause authority in enacting the ACA.