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Media Alerts - West Virginia v. HHS
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July 1, 2016
  West Virginia v. HHS
Headline: D.C. Circuit finds West Virginia lacks standing to challenge ACA extensions

Area of Law: Affordable Care Act

Issue(s) Presented: Whether the state of West Virginia has standing to challenge the President's determination not to enforce certain controversial provisions of the Affordable Care Act for a transitional period.

Brief Summary: The Affordable Care Act (ACA), 42 U.S.C. ยง 300gg - 300gg-6, 300gg-8, mandates minimum coverage requirements for all health insurance plans offered in the individual market. Shortly after those requirements took effect in 2013, insurance companies began cancelling policies that did not comply with ACA mandates, creating significant upheaval in health insurance markets. Subsequently, the President announced that the federal government would delay enforcing the statutory requirements, and HHS sent a letter to the States announcing a "transitional policy" that would allow health insurers, subject to certain conditions, to continue to offer policies that did not conform to ACA requirements for one year (later extended for another three years). In the interim, states could decide to either enforce or delay the mandates.

West Virginia, which initially opted to enforce the mandates, and then changed its position after HHS extended the transitional period, filed suit for declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that HHS's blanket decision not to enforce the mandates violated the plain language of the ACA, which mandated that the Secretary "shall" enforce the mandates if states do not. West Virginia also claimed that the policy violated the APA because it amounted to a substantive and binding rule that was issued without the required notice-and-comment, unlawfully delegated away federal executive authority, and violated the Tenth Amendment by forcing states to determine whether or not to enforce federal requirements. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the case, concluding that West Virginia lacked standing because it had not suffered an injury-in-fact.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed. The court determined that West Virginia was arguing, in essence, that the federal government was illegally enlisting states to bear the political responsibility of deciding whether or not to implement a federal statue. The court concluded that the only injury West Virginia had suffered was the "political discomfort in having the responsibility to determine whether to enforce or not - and thereby annoying some ... citizens whatever way it decides" and found that there was no support for treating such political discomfort as a cognizable legal injury.

For the full text of the opinion, please see

Panel: Kavanaugh, Wilkins, Silberman

Argument Date: April 15, 2016

Date of Issued Opinion: July 1, 2016

Docket Number: 15-5309

Decided: Affirmed

Counsel: Elbert Lin, Patrick J. Morrisey, and Julie Marie Blake for appellant.

Lindsey Powell, Benjamin C. Mizer, Alisa B. Klein and Mark B. Stern for appellee.

Author of Opinion: Silberman

Case Alert Author: Ripple Weistling

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Elizabeth Beske, Ripple Weistling

    Posted By: Ripple Weistling @ 07/01/2016 12:03 PM     DC Circuit  

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