NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Eighteen Republican-leaning states have asked a federal appeals court to delay next week’s hearing on President Barack Obama’s health care law, saying they need more time to prepare answers to complex issues the court raised in a recent filing.
States supporting “Obamacare” opposed the delay, saying it would contribute to uncertainty for insurance companies, regulators and people who need health care coverage.
Absent a change in schedule, arguments are set for Tuesday at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. At issue is a federal judge’s December ruling that the law is unconstitutional. Twenty mostly Democratic-led states and the U.S. House of Representatives want the 5th Circuit to overturn that ruling — which is on hold pending appeals.
The 18 GOP-dominated states want the circuit court to uphold the ruling. Those states asked the appeals court Monday evening for a delay. They said they need more time to prepare briefs on questions the appeals court asked last week. Those questions include whether the House and the states supporting the law have legal standing to appeal. Another issue raised by the appellate judges: whether there is a legitimate “live case or controversy” to be decided, and what the “appropriate conclusion” of the case should be if nobody involved can legally appeal the December ruling.
The appeals court said lawyers should file briefs on those issues by Wednesday, and to be prepared to argue the issues at Tuesday’s hearing.
The lead attorney for the Affordable Care Act opponents, Kyle Hawkins of the Texas attorney general’s office, said the issues raised could affect each state differently and merit a response that represents the “cohesive views” of all the states. “As of today, it appears unlikely that any such response will be completed by the Court’s July 3 deadline,” he wrote.
Hawkins asked for a 20-day delay to provide briefs and a delay in the hearing until after those briefs are filed.
Support for a delay wasn’t unanimous among the law’s opponents. Hawkins’ letter said the Trump administration, which unsuccessfully attempted to get Congress to repeal the law and is not defending it in court, opposes a delay.
Leading the coalition of states supporting the law is California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Lawyers for his office spelled out the implications of a delay in a letter filed later Monday. It said a delay would complicate budget proceedings in states that receive health care funds allocated through the Affordable Care Act, the setting of insurance rates by companies working with states’ regulators and decisions by individuals who need health care coverage “in deciding whether to move, change jobs, or start a family.”
The main issue in the appeal is whether Texas-based U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor’s ruling that the Affordable Care Act was rendered unconstitutional when Congress reduced to zero the tax penalty for failing to have health insurance.