Different Takes: Health Law Faces Another Legal Attack From Trump Administration

Different Takes: Health Law Faces Another Legal Attack From Trump Administration

In a court filing late Thursday, the Trump administration is specifically urging the Texas federal court to strike down two provisions from the ACA: one that requires insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions, and the other that prevents insurers from charging individuals a higher premium due to their pre-existing condition.

Democrats swiftly portrayed the surprise move by the Justice Department, outlined Thursday in a brief supporting a court case filed by Texas and 19 other states, as a harsh blow to Americans with fragile health and their families. "As of 2019, therefore, the individual mandate will be unconstitutional under controlling Supreme Court precedent holding that 'the federal government does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance, '" the brief says.

"You can't pull the rug out from underneath people with pre-existing conditions", O'Donnell said. "It is now abundantly clear that in passing a massive tax giveaway to the wealthy, Republicans also believe they signed into law permission for insurance companies to once again come after basic protections for the middle class". "The decision by the Department of Justice to abandon critical patient protections is devastating for the millions of Americans who suffer from serious illnesses or have preexisting conditions and rely on those protections under current law to obtain life-saving healthcare", read a joint statement from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

The District of Columbia and 32 states have opted to expand Medicaid eligibility under the ACA to nonelderly adults with incomes up to 138% of poverty level; several other states are considering expansion.

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.

Since he took office in January 2017, Becerra has emerged as a top opponent of the Trump administration, filing more than 30 lawsuits on health care and other issues.

"Zeroing out the individual mandate penalty should not result in striking important consumer protections", America's Health Insurance Plans said in a statement released Friday.

About 1.5 million Californians buy coverage through the states ACA exchange, Covered California, and almost 4 million have joined Medicaid as a result of the programs expansion under the law.

The DoJ also sided with the states in arguing that two of the law's core consumer protections - which make health insurers cover sick consumers and prohibit them from charging sick consumers higher premiums - can not be severed from the individual mandate and, therefore, are likewise unconstitutional.

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. Now that Congress has made a decision to zero out the penalty, as Republicans did previous year as part of the 2017 tax cut, the pre-existing conditions have to go, too.

Some Democratic politicians didn't waste much time. Until the Trump Administration (which is the target of the lawsuit) filed its views on Thursday, the case had been building without either side knowing what the government position would be.

This also extends to two major provisions of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, including one that protects people with preexisting conditions from being denied coverage. "These are people who defend programs they disagree with all the time".

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". Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan explaining that this is a "rare case" that warrants deviating from the Justice Department's "longstanding tradition of defending the constitutionality of duly enacted statutes".

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a letter to Congress that Trump, who campaigned on repealing the law and almost did so his first year in office, approved the legal strategy.

But polls show support for the law increasing as it becomes more imperiled, and the result has been a political sea change.

"They just have to say, 'The other party wants to take coverage away from millions of people, '" he said.

More immediately, there might be some effect on premiums for next year.

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