North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein

In this Wednesday, March 22, 2017, file photo, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein speaks at a roundtable discussion at the Gastonia Police Department community room in Gastonia, North Carolina.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein joined other state attorneys general on a call Thursday to criticize the federal court's ruling against the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that the mandate is unconstitutional since there is no longer a tax penalty for individuals who don't have health insurance. The plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit seeking to have the individual mandate ruled unconstitutional want the entire act, also known as Obamacare, to be thrown out.

Stein said he is concerned the decision will harm thousands of North Carolinians. He plans to form a coalition with 20 other states to fight the ruling.

“I strongly disagree with the court’s ruling," he said. "I am gravely concerned that this lawsuit may deprive people of their access to affordable healthcare.”

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans heard the case as part of a lawsuit initiated by the state of Texas – and later joined by the Trump administration and other Republican-led states. The lawsuit challenged the law's constitutionality after Congress in 2017 reduced the penalty to zero for violating ACA's individual mandate, which required Americans to carry health insurance.

Stein and attorneys general for California, Michigan and Kentucky said on a Thursday conference call that they are considering fighting the case to the U.S. Supreme Court in early 2020.

More than 500,000 North Carolinians enrolled for ACA's health insurance marketplace in 2019, according to HealthInsurance.org. Stein is concerned that it will put at risk protections against discrimination because of pre-existing conditions.

 "I have talked to a number of the millions of North Carolinians whose healthcare is at risk," Stein said. "I want to assure them that this fight is not over. I will continue the fight in court to protect lifesaving healthcare for North Carolinians,” Stein said.

Robert Henneke, lead counsel for the individual plaintiffs and general counsel for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, applauded the appeals court decision.

“The court’s opinion recognizes that Obamacare continues to injure millions of Americans like our clients who have lost their choice of doctor, suffered rationed care, and had their insurance costs skyrocket," Henneke said. "This decision puts us one step closer to eventually freeing the American people from its unconstitutional mandates and regulations.”

North Carolina is one of 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid under the ACA, which offers federally and state-funded health insurance to residents. The expansion will cost the state around $2 billion, state leaders have said.

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for three years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.