DOJ won't defend Affordable Care Act provisions in court

Ebony Scott
June 12, 2018

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. One example, unfolding right now in the midst of the president's various rhetorical wars - with our Group of Seven partners, with the special counsel, with his own attorney general - is the administration's remarkable move not to defend the constitutionality of key parts of the Affordable Care Act.

Texas and its allies have asked the court, in Texas et al. v. US et al. "Zeroing out the individual mandate penalty should not result in striking important consumer protections, such as guaranteed issue and community rating rules that help those with pre-existing conditions".

If the court ultimately declared the provisions targeted by the Trump Administration unconstitutional, California would be temporarily cushioned from the effects because there are laws already on the books should the ACA – or its provisions – go away. In the case of health care, “fortunately we have 16 other [Democratic attorneys general] who are prepared to do it with us. Other findings include: health insurance gains were largest for adults without a college degree; long term and short term un-insurance rates declined; use of primary care, mental health services and preventive care among enrollees increased; as well as more low and moderate care adults had more regular source of care; and reliance on ER departments decreased.

"Should this case be successful, people with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, lung disease and any serious or chronic condition are likely to be denied coverage due to their pre-existing conditions or charged such high premiums because of their health status that they will be unable to afford any coverage that may be offered". The Justice Department seeks a declaratory judgment that those provisions will be invalid as of January 1.

Supporters of the health care law expressed considerable alarm on Friday.

"The individual mandate thus still exists", the filing said, but with the associated financial penalty gone, "it will no longer be fairly possible to describe it as a tax because it will no longer generate any revenue".

The Trump administration now argues it's unconstitutional to stop insurance companies from denying or dropping coverage for people with pre-existing conditions like cancer, asthma, or diabetes.

In December, Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

"The lawsuit initiated by Texas is unsafe and reckless and would destroy the ACA as we know it".

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If the mandate provision is no longer a tax provision, the 2012 Supreme Court ruling should no longer protect the individual mandate provision from legal challenges, the states say. I don't think that the repeal of the penalty means that the no-penalty individual mandate is necessarily unconstitutional, since there is no sanction for violating it, so it isn't really much of a law at all.

The filing came in a lawsuit brought by the state of Texas and a coalition of other Republican-led states who have filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas challenging the constitutionally of the Affordable Care Act.

O'Connor has said that, once he has issued his ruling, the parties will have 30 days to respond.

Senior House Democrats on health care committees called the administration's refusal to defend the federal health law a "stunning attack on the rule of law". Even if the lawsuit stands little chance of success, putting those provisions back in play can create uncertainty for insurers and patients this summer and fall. Health insurers are now deciding whether to sell coverage in the individual market in 2019 - and what they're going to charge. The insurers say that healthy people will probably opt out of having insurance.

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.

"We agree with the [Trump] administration that a preliminary injunction should not be granted to the plaintiffs".

ROVNER: Those are the main parts. "Instead, we should focus on advancing proven solutions that ensure affordability for all consumers".

The 20 states filed [JURIST report] their lawsuit in February, relying on the Supreme Court precedent in NFIB v. Sebelius [JURIST report].

Other reports by GizPress

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