Published: Sun, June 10, 2018
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

Trump administration won't defend ACA in case brought by GOP states

Trump administration won't defend ACA in case brought by GOP states

An obscure district court lawsuit over the Affordable Care Act became a potent threat to one of the law's most popular provisions late Thursday, when the Justice Department filed a brief arguing that as of January 1, 2019, the protections for people with preexisting conditions should be invalidated.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes says a decision by the Department of Justice not to defend pivotal parts of the Affordable Care Act in court will strengthen the state's recently submitted lawsuit, filed with 19 other states, that argues the entire law should be struck down as unconstitutional.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a letter to House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, said he had determined the individual mandate will be unconstitutional when the tax law becomes effective in 2019. But under the GOP tax bill signed into law last December, tax penalties for people without insurance were eliminated. Moreover, Congress had no intention of repealing the rest of the law when it eliminated the individual mandate in 2017.

Administration officials at the departments of Health and Human Services and Treasury would not comment, instead pointing to the Justice Department filing, which said other parts of the health law would continue to stand, including its Medicaid expansion covering about 12 million low-income people.

However, the Trump administration believes the provision of the ACA guaranteeing affordable rates to those with pre-existing conditions must be thrown out with the individual mandate.

President Trump has long declared the ACA, also known as Obamacare, to be a "disaster", and the brief filed Thursday night is the latest attempt by his administration to weaken former president Barack Obama's signature health-care law.

Bailey's spokesman Corey Uhden said Friday that he wouldn't comment on the constitutionality of the ACA provisions.

The state has been at the forefront in resisting many Trump Administration policies, including on health care and immigration. "The Trump Administration is perpetuating the same cruel vision of higher costs and less coverage that House Republicans voted for in the monstrosity of Trumpcare". The repeal takes effect next year.

"It would be essentially a return to what the individual market looked like before the ACA, where insurers would require applicants to fill out long questionnaires about their medical histories, and make decisions based on people's health and how much to charge", said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. 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. Insurers say the individual health insurance market is more stable than people might think.

Many advocates spoke out against the Trump administration's stance on the law's consumer protections.

"In refusing to follow bipartisan tradition and defend the ACA in the US 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. That ruling hinged on the reasoning that, while the government "does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance", as Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority, it "does have the power to impose a tax on those without health insurance".

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