Sweeping new Trump challenge to Obamacare

12 June, 2018, 01:44 | Author: Denise Dawson
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The U.S. Justice Department says that key parts of the Affordable Care Act are unconstitutional. The guarantee that people should be able to buy insurance regardless of their health history has been a popular provision of the divisive law - one that President Trump has praised, calling the law's prohibition on denying insurance to sick people "one of the strongest assets" of the Affordable Care Act in a "60 Minutes" interview before he took office.

The Trump administration's decision to abandon the Affordable Care Act in an ongoing court challenge could affect some of the most popular pillars of the law - further intensifying the fight over health care in the middle of an election year.

This current lawsuit, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, argues that since Congress has changed the law to remove the penalty forcing individuals to get insurance, it has inadvertently rendered the rest of the law impermissible, under the 2012 Supreme Court ruling.

The Texas-led lawsuit filed earlier this year claims that Congress' decision to eliminate the individual mandate penalty, which goes into effect in 2019, should render the entire health care law invalid.

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

ROVNER: Well, one of the reasons it's happening - say the insurers, who are filing their rates now for next year - is because they took away this penalty for people who don't have insurance.

SIMON: What other parts of the ACA does the Department of Justice single out in the lawsuit?

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.

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. What the Justice Department is arguing is that most of the rest of the law is still OK. In the tax law, Congress repealed the penalty for people who fail to have health insurance starting in 2019. The Trump administration also argued that the ACA's guaranteed issue and community rating requirement, which ban insurers from denying coverage or charging people more based on their health, can only work in tandem with the mandate and must also be invalidated.

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Weighing in on a Texas challenge to the health law, the Justice Department argued that legally and practically the popular consumer protections can not be separated from the unpopular insurance mandate, which Congress has repealed, effective next year.

The two provisions, along with Obamacare's requirement that insurers offer comprehensive coverage, have been targets of Republicans seeking to repeal the law and lower premiums. "For the Trump administration to crumple that up and throw it out the window is galling".

Voters, both in interviews and a series of polls, have consistently said that health care is the issue they care the most about going into the midterm elections and Democratic candidates have responded by making it the cornerstone of their attacks on Republicans.

ACA opponents argued even before the legislation creating the ACA was drafted that a mandate would be the equivalent of Congress requiring people who hate broccoli to buy broccoli. However, the Trump administration contends the individual mandate only becomes unconstitutional as of 2019, calling for a declaratory judgment from the court on the constitutionality but a denial of a preliminary injunction for the plaintiffs.

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".

Andy Kim, a former Obama administration staffer, is making coverage of pre-existing conditions and access to affordable health care a key part of his campaign against Rep. Tom MacArthur in Central New Jersey, the author of the Obamacare repeal bill that passed the House but failed in the Senate previous year.

“This is not a new experience for us under this new Trump era of having to defend Californians, ” Becerra said.

In a three-page letter to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Attorney General Jeff Sessions acknowledged "the Executive Branch has a longstanding tradition of defending the constitutionality of duly enacted statutes if reasonable arguments can be made in their defense". It will also make it more likely that they take back the White House in two years.

O'Connor issued an order on May 16 that grants California and other states that support the ACA official intervenor status.

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