ACA lawsuit could jeopardize 52 million Americans' access to health care

Modesto Morganelli
Giugno 10, 2018

The filing is part of a lawsuit brought by the state of Texas and a coalition of other Republican-led states that are challenging Obamacare's constitutionally.

In a brief filed in a Texas federal court, the Justice Department said the ACA's individual mandate - which required most Americans to carry health insurance - can no longer be interpreted as a tax "because it will raise no revenue as Congress has eliminated the monetary penalty".

"In refusing to follow bipartisan tradition and defend the ACA in the USA federal court system, the Trump administration is nakedly admitting that it wants to eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions, breaking a promise that the president has made time and again", said Topher Spiro, vice president of health policy at the Center for American Progress.

The Department of Justice has said it will not legally defend the ACA's restriction on insurers asking about pre-existing health conditions as a determinant for whether to offer coverage and at what rates, saying it believes the provision is unconstitutional.

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, and other House Democrats condemned the Trump administration Friday after the Justice Department announced it would not defend key provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The states argue that after Congress eliminated the penalty for the individual mandate, effective in 2019, as part of last year's tax reform bill, it destabilized other sections of the law.

Led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, the lawsuit said that without the individual mandate, Obamacare in its entirety was unlawful. The Justice Department, in backing the state's argument, is seeking to strike down two of Obamacare's most popular provisions: the rule that insurance companies can't turn someone away or charge them more based on a pre-existing condition, and the rule that limits how much insurers can charge older patients for their premiums.

Trump and fellow Republicans in Congress have sought to dismantle Obamacare, which sought to expand insurance coverage to more Americans. The repeal takes effect next year.

Some 70% of folks said the federal government should continue prohibiting insurers from charging more to those with pre-existing conditions, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll from June 2017. In this case, California is leading a group of Democrat-led states in defending the law.

Texas says that without the fine in place the requirement to have health insurance is unconstitutional and that the entire law should be struck down as a result.

Many advocates spoke out against the Trump administration's stance on the law's consumer protections. This policy change would jeopardize coverage not just for consumers in the individual market, but also people with preexisting conditions who have employer-sponsored coverage.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a letter to Congress on Thursday that Trump, who campaigned on repealing the law and almost did so his first year in office, approved the legal strategy. Tom Miller of the American Enterprise Institute told Politico that the refusal to defend key parts of the ACA shows that the Trump administration is going even further in its battle against the health care law.

Donald Verrilli Jr., President Barack Obama's top Supreme Court lawyer who defended the law, called the decision "a sad moment".

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