Health Care

Trump administration no longer will defend the Affordable Care Act in court

Trump administration no longer will defend the Affordable Care Act in court

The administration instead called on federal courts to scuttle the health laws protection for people with preexisting medical conditions and its requirement that people buy health coverage.

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

Since Congress repealed the penalty for not having insurance in its tax reform package previous year, much of the rest of the insurance statute becomes unconstitutional in 2019 and must be "struck down", attorneys for the Justice Department said in a court filing Thursday.

Many lawmakers were playing catch-up with the fledgling case, though Rep. Michael Burgess, Texas Republican, said there could be a "silver lining" if the courts force Congress to revisit heath care under the threat of losing Obamacare's protections for people with pre-existing conditions next year.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of NY urged President Donald Trump to reverse the decision.

"I'm running for Congress because past year, during the lead up to my son's birth, our doctor told my wife and I that our son may not survive or have a serious health condition for the rest of his life", Kim said Friday.

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.

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The president last fall ended "cost-sharing reduction payments" to insurers that offset discounts that the law promises to lower-income customers in the out-of-pocket costs for ACA health plans.

For years, Republicans said they would protect people who suffer from preexisting conditions and were priced out of the individual market.

"What the states are really trying to do is bootstrap a claim against other parts of the law, and there's absolutely no basis for this", Adler said in an e-mail.

On Thursday night, the DOJ declined to defend ObamaCare against a lawsuit filed by Texas and 19 other GOP-led states, arguing that the law is unconstitutional.

While the ACA has been the target of a sharply divided and partisan debate for almost a decade, pre-existing protections are one of the most popular actions Congress has taken in modern times.

Nicholas Bagley, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School who had been a Justice Department lawyer, says DOJ's move is troubling. Even that, however, proved impossible to do, and in the end they settled for a small morsel: Tucked into their tax cut bill was a provision effectively repealing the individual mandate by reducing the fine for not carrying insurance to zero.

Moreover, if the Trump administration did not want to defend the ACA expressly, it could simply have filed a jurisdictional motion, asserting that the states are not injured by the lack of an individual mandate penalty and that the litigation is not yet timely, as the tax is still in effect.

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"In other words, people can once again be denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions or be charged more", Jost said. Trump's Justice Department didn't go quite that far. John McCain's dramatic "thumbs down" vote last July, the Trump administration has taken other steps that Obamacare advocates say weaken the law.

Recent polling indicates that this could be a political victor for Democrats attempting to recapture at least one chamber of Congress. But it seems less worrisome than the possibility that courts, including the Supreme Court, might actually adopt the Trump administration's view and strike down the ACA provisions on pre-existing conditions. But the court will take notice that the Trump administration has switched sides.

Sessions said the department was unable to find any "reasonable arguments" for the constitutionality of the consumer protection provisions and the department adopted the position "with the approval of the president of the United States".

In a statement, America's Health Insurance Plans, a leading trade group, predicted the Trump administration's decision could lead to difficultly for insurers setting rates, a patchwork of state insurance requirements, and higher rates for older and sicker Americans. That will leave sicker people buying insurance.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a letter to Congress that Trump, who campaigned on repealing the law and almost did so his first year in office, approved the legal strategy. It will also make it more likely that they take back the White House in two years.

"I've long held a position that the federal government should get completely out of the health insurance business", he said.

But polls show support for the law increasing as it becomes more imperiled, and the result has been a political sea change.

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