As Indiana prepares to collect nearly $100 million from a multi-state lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill held a meeting Wednesday with ACA proponents who are urging him to drop a second lawsuit challenging a controversial portion of the health care law. Though both parties said they were pleased with the dialogue, Hill also reinforced his opposition to the Obamacare individual mandate.
The Hoosier state is expected to receive $95 million from the 2015 multi-state lawsuit that argued the Affordable Care Act's tax on state Medicaid programs was unlawful. Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Texas and Wisconsin were also involved in the suit that netted $839 million for the states.
“The feds wrongfully took Indiana’s money to fund Obamacare,” Attorney General Curtis Hill said in a statement Wednesday. “Since the federal government cannot tax the states, we are pleased to return this illegally collected money to Hoosiers.”
Hill said Indiana joined the suit when “federal authorities threatened to withhold Medicaid funds unless state taxpayers paid a portion of the Health Insurance Providers Fee to help fund the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.”
His office is also challenging the ACA through a 2018 lawsuit that contends the changes made to individual mandate by the 2017 tax reform renders the entire healthcare law unconstitutional. Indiana joined that 20-state coalition in February.
In protest, eight health care groups from across the state delivered letters and a signed petition to Hill’s office last month, urging him to withdraw from the February lawsuit. Hill recently hosted those groups in his office Wednesday evening to discuss their plea.
Cheryl Reed of Protect Our Care Indiana said although she didn’t think there was much movement on the issue during the Wednesday meeting, it was still a positive conversation.
“The upshot was that Hill isn't withdrawing but said he's open to continued dialogue,” Reed said.
Also in attendance were health care advocates Fran Quigley, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law Health and Human Rights Clinic Director. and Bloomington physician Dr. Rob Stone, director of Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan. Stone said the meeting and discussion was cordial and respectful, and Hill gave them as much time as they wanted to make their points regarding their opposition to the lawsuit.
“Attorney General Hill spoke extensively about his role to protect the Indiana Constitution,” Stone said. “He kept coming back to that. ‘It’s all about protecting the constitution, that’s why we’re a part of this suit.’”
Despite the civility, Stone said Hill couldn’t answer one question: What do you say to the 600,000 plus Hoosiers afraid of losing their health insurance?
“He said, ‘I don’t have an answer to that question.’ One of the shortest replies of the day,” Stone said. “And that was pretty stunning because he had an answer to every other question.”
As the health advocates left the 45-minute meeting, they promised to continue gathering petitions and build their case against the attorney general’s lawsuit.
“We’ll smile in his face. We were clear, he was clear, we didn’t close any doors afterwards,” Stone said. “We wanted to talk to him directly. I’m not optimistic that he will pull Indiana out of this suit, but I think he listened to us.”
For its part, Hill's office wrote in a statement to Indiana Lawyer that the AG "was pleased to host a dialogue," but also defended his position.
"The foundation on which the Supreme Court built its justification for Obamacare's constitutionality ceased to exist when Congress repealed the individual mandate tax," a spokeswoman wrote. "Recognizing the need for affordable health care, Attorney General Hill hopes to see the emergence of sound policies that not only safeguard the healthcare needs of all Americans -- including those with pre-existing conditions -- but do so without violating the Constitution. He continues to support efforts to this end by Indiana policymakers, and he further supports such efforts by Congress and the Trump administration on a national level."
"Healthcare in America is an important issue that requires dialogue among all parties who share a common interest in ensuring that everyone in America has access to reasonable and affordable healthcare," the spokeswoman added.