Justice Department move on health law has risks for GOP

Modesto Morganelli
Giugno 11, 2018

The Trump administration said in a court filing late Thursday it will no longer defend key parts of the Affordable Care Act, including the requirement that people have health insurance and provisions that guarantee access to health insurance regardless of any medical conditions.

The Justice Department filed its brief Thursday in challenge to the 2010 health-care law filed by Texas and 19 other states, report Politico, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Axios and the Washington Post. While the subsidies would not go away, it is unclear how their amount would be determined if insurers could return to the days before the law of charging higher prices to people with previous medical conditions - or refusing to cover them at all.More recently, the administration is in the midst of rewriting federal rules to make it easier for people to buy two types of insurance that are relatively affordable because they bypass the ACA's requirements for benefits that health plans sold to individuals and small business must include.

Mr. MacArthur said it would be hard for Congress to revisit the brutal health care fight, although it's unclear if the lawsuit will get "any legs under it".

The president a year ago issued an executive order directing federal agencies to make it easier to buy two alternatives to Affordable Care Act plans.

Stanford said removing the restrictions on pre-existing conditions would take Americans back when "insurance companies could pore through your medical records and anything you mentioned to your doctor was fair game".

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the individual mandate - requiring Americans to purchase insurance and exacting a yearly financial penalty from those who don't - was not a constitutional use of the Commerce Clause, but that it was a lawful use of Congress' authority to require taxes. Under the current health care law individuals can not be denied healthcare due to their existing health condition.

That was what five Justices of the Supreme Court said when a different combination of five Justices voted to uphold the mandate as a form of tax.

A Texas challenge to the health law argues that when Congress changed tax law and cut the penalty for not having insurance to zero as of next year, it rendered the individual mandate toothless. Without that form of tax, the new Administration document noted, the ACA mandate to buy insurance would be unconstitutional as beyond Congress's power to regulate interstate commercial activity.

The issue became a flash point that helped derail Republican efforts to repeal the law a year ago, with opponents of the party's health bills speaking loudly against weakening protections for the sick and vulnerable.

"There is no doubt that Republicans are responsible for the rising cost of healthcare premiums and the high likelihood that many will no longer be able to afford basic care at all, and they will face serious blowback in the midterms", the House Democrats' campaign operation said in a statement.

In court papers, the Justice Department said it doesn't want to stop the law in its tracks, but said they agreed with the plaintiffs who say the most famous parts of the law are now illegal.

While they provide major protections to those with pre-existing conditions, they also have pushed up premiums for those who are young and healthy. But under the GOP tax bill signed into law last December, tax penalties for people without insurance were eliminated. "Congress has now kicked that flimsy support from beneath the law".

Donald B. Verrilli Jr., a solicitor general in the Obama administration, said there were obviously reasonable arguments that could be made in defense of the Affordable Care Act in the Texas case, pointing to those in a brief filed Thursday by California and 15 other states.

"At the very least it adds uncertainty at exactly the moment when plans are trying to set rates for next year", said Ceci Connolly, the chief executive of the Alliance of Community Health Plans. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said in a statement.

In May, the court allowed more than a dozen state attorneys general, all Democrats, to "intervene" in the case and defend the law. A Justice Department spokeswoman said the lawyers' withdrawal had been a department decision, declining to specify whether the lawyers had personally objected to continuing on the case. Whatever the lower courts decide, the case seems destined to reach the Supreme Court.

The Senate's top Democrats fired off a letter to President Trump on Friday to denounce the decision and urged Trump's Justice Department to reverse course. Judge Reed O'Connor was named to the court by President George W. Bush and has ruled against other aspects of the Affordable Care Act.

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