(Chicago, IL January 17, 2012) — On Friday, January 13, in the United States Supreme Court, HIV Prevention Justice Alliance (HIV PJA) aligned itself with fifteen other national HIV advocacy organizations in a friend-of-the-court brief authored by Lambda Legal in support of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as the ACA.
“The U.S. Supreme Court must defend the right to heath for all Americans and uphold the ACA in its entirety. The law takes bold and long-overdue steps to counteract growing health inequity in the U.S., a goal which is essential to eliminating new HIV infections and overcoming health disparities among people living with HIV in the U.S.,” said Julie Davids, coordinator of HIV PJA and Director of National Advocacy and Mobilization at AIDS Foundation of Chicago.
In March of 2010, the ACA was signed into law, reforming aspects of the private health insurance industry and expanding access to health insurance for millions of Americans. The constitutionality of the law was immediately challenged in federal court in multiple jurisdictions; the United States Supreme Court will weigh in on the appeals in these cases this term and has scheduled oral argument for March 2012.
In the friend-of-the-court-brief filed today, HIV PJA signed on to support 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. See a complete list of signatories below.
“The ACA is a crucial bridge between the current state of the domestic epidemic and a future that is free from AIDS,” said Scott Schoettes, HIV Project Director for Lambda Legal. “When Congress enacted the ACA in 2010, only 17% of people living with HIV had private health insurance---a disheartening statistic given the greatly improved health outcomes for people who have access to consistent care. The ACA finally allows us to reap the benefits of the medical breakthroughs made years ago. With continuing prevention education, early detection, and quality care for everyone living with HIV, we have the power to stem the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”
In 2006, Massachusetts enacted health care reform legislation similar to the ACA, featuring a minimum coverage requirement and nearly universal access to insurance, including for people with HIV. Between 2005 and 2008, Massachusetts had a 37% decrease in HIV infections while the nation had an 8% increase. Expanded access to health coverage has allowed Massachusetts to focus its federally-subsidized HIV/AIDS programs more on preventive care and related services and less on primary care and the complications associated with an AIDS diagnosis. These changed circumstances in Massachusetts foretell what the nation can expect once the ACA is fully implemented.
In contrast, people living with HIV fare far worse in states that have not adopted health insurance reform or have adopted reform that does not include an individual mandate. Florida, for example, a state challenging the ACA, has seen far worse health outcomes for people living with HIV. In Florida, 20.8% of citizens are uninsured, compared with Massachusetts’ rate of 5.6%, the lowest in the nation. Florida’s HIV infection rate, 33 of every 100,000 people, is the highest for any state in the nation, and five times that of Massachusetts.
The following organizations are listed as signatories in the amicus brief: AIDS United, Asian and Pacific-Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS (APICHA), Black AIDS Institute, Center for HIV Law and Policy, Gay and Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA), HIV Medical Association (HIVMA), HIV Prevention Justice Alliance (HIV PJA), Latino Commission on AIDS, National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA), National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), National Native American AIDS Prevention Center (NNAAPC), U.S. Positive Women’s Network/WORLD, and Treatment Access Expansion Project (TAEP).
Lambda Legal’s HIV Project Director, Scott Schoettes, and Director of Constitutional Litigation, Susan Sommer, are joined as counsel on the brief by Ropes & Gray LLP attorneys Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, Bradley Grossman, Brendon Carrington, and JacobHeller.
The case is Dep’t of HHS v. Florida. See our case page at: www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/cases/dept-of-hhs-v-florida
To read the brief visit: www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/dept-of-hhs_us_20120113_brief-for-amici-curiae
Erik Roldan, Lambda Legal, 312-663-4413 ext. 359; Cell: 312-545-8140;
Jim Merrell, HIV PJA, 312-784-9048,