Justice Dept. Declines to Defend Some Key ACA Provisions

Frederick Owens
June 12, 2018

The Trump administration's move drew strong criticism from defenders of the health care law and some legal scholars, who noted how unusual it is for the Justice Department not to defend federal law.

That includes the requirement that people have health insurance and sections that guarantee access to coverage regardless of any medical conditions, the Associated Press reported.

The Trump administration said Thursday that it will not defend portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in a challenge by 20 states.

The legal challenge led by the state of Texas argues that these consumer protections - as well as the law's multibillion-dollar program for expanding the Medicaid safety net to poor Americans - should be scrapped because Congress a year ago repealed the penalty on Americans who don't have health coverage.

Republicans on Capitol Hill had no advance warning that the administration was going to assert that protections for people with preexisting conditions is unconstitutional - a position that defies President Donald Trump's promises to maintain those protections.

America's Health Insurance Plans, the trade association for health insurance companies, supports the pre-existing condition protections under the ACA.

In a brief filed in a federal court in Texas, the department said a tax law signed a year ago by President Donald Trump that eliminated penalties for not having health insurance rendered the so-called individual mandate under Obamacare unconstitutional.

Though Republicans loathe the 2010 law, many of them have pushed for market-oriented solutions that allow sicker Americans to obtain insurance without facing sky-high prices. "It's a cornerstone of what they do", he says.

However, the Trump administration believes the provision of the ACA guaranteeing affordable rates to those with pre-existing conditions must be thrown out with the individual mandate.

But others say the legal brief may have minimal impact next year on premiums.

Twenty Republican state attorneys general filed suit on February 26, charging that Congress' changes to the law in last year's tax bill rendered the entire ACA unconstitutional.

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Republicans seem determined not only to make American health care more inefficient and cruel in every way they can think of, but to do it while making themselves as unpopular as possible.

"The Justice Department has an obligation to defend the law, and it has refused to do so because it dislikes this particular law", Bagley told USA TODAY. In the tax law, Congress repealed the penalty for people who fail to have health insurance starting in 2019.

California and 15 other states filed an opposing brief on Thursday defending the law. Now that Congress has made a decision to zero out the penalty, as Republicans did previous year as part of the 2017 tax cut, the pre-existing conditions have to go, too.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., released a letter with other top Democratic senators demanding the administration reverse the move, while the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee wasted no time blasting out news releases questioning whether Republican candidates agreed with the administration.

The only things that the federal government is arguing with the states' about are 1) when those provisions needs to fall (the states want an injunction to end it immediately, while the feds argue that it should remain until January 1, 2019, when the repeal of the penalty actually goes into effect) and 2) whether the rest of Obamacare can remain (states say no, feds say yes).

Democrats "are responsible for the current problems that we have in our healthcare system as a result of Obamacare", said Hunt, noting the law passed without a single Republican vote. Until the Trump Administration (which is the target of the lawsuit) filed its views on Thursday, the case had been building without either side knowing what the government position would be.

In the past, polls have found that both Republicans and Democrats favor protecting coverage for the tens of millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions.

Friday, the insurance industry warned in stark terms of "harm that would come to millions of Americans" if such protections are struck down, causing premiums "to go even higher for older Americans and sicker patients".

Attorney General Jeff Sessions highlighted the two provisions in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that more than 16 million Americans suffer from depression each year. Those two were so closely tied to the insurance-buying mandate that they would not work in the health insurance market without the guaranteed pool of insured people that the mandate was designed to create, Administration lawyers contended.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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