The Trump administration said in a court filing late Thursday that 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.
In a brief filed Thursday, the Justice Department sided with Texas and a coalition of other Republican-led states that had filed a suit challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare.
"The administration's attempt to eliminate protections for the 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions is just the latest - and potentially the most damaging - example of the coordinated effort by congressional Republicans and the Trump administration to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, driving up uninsured rates and out-of-pocket costs for Americans", the Democrats said.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of NY urged President Donald Trump to reverse the decision. Insurers were not allowed to raise costs for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who voted against the Republican repeal bills in the Senate previous year, also expressed concern about the administration's new push, saying it "creates further uncertainty that could ultimately result in higher costs for millions of Americans and undermine essential protections for people with pre-existing conditions, such as asthma, cancer, heart disease, arthritis and diabetes".
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. Some legal experts say the suit is weak, since it turns on the idea that if one part of a law is invalid, the whole thing is invalid, without recognizing that the Congress passed the law and is free to alter it while leaving the rest in place. What the Justice Department is arguing is that most of the rest of the law is still OK.
California and 15 other states filed an opposing brief on Thursday defending the law.
"Should this case be successful, people with cancer, heart disease, diabetes 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". John McCain's dramatic "thumbs down" vote last July, the Trump administration has taken other steps that Obamacare advocates say weaken the law.
If Democrats don't repeat that sentence a thousand times a day between now and November, they're nuts.
Nevertheless, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, criticized the Trump administration in a statement. Health officials halved the sign-up period to buy ACA health plans, cutting from $100 million to $10 million an advertising budget to help encourage consumers to sign up, and slashed funds for grass-roots organizations that helped people enroll.
"I've long held a position that the federal government should get completely out of the health insurance business", he said.
The Justice Department concurred, saying the court should consider ordering that as of January 1, two popular parts of the law will be invalid: that people with preexisting conditions must receive coverage, and that they can not be charged more than healthier consumers.
Rep. Tom MacArthur, New Jersey Republican, included a provision in the House bill that would have required insurers to cover sicker Americans but allowed states to waive the prohibition on charging them higher premiums. 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. First, if the administration's position prevails, millions of Americans will lose the protections they thought they had against being denied coverage if they suffer from preexisting conditions.
The major difference is that the Justice Department under President Donald Trump has largely switched sides.
In a statement, America's Health Insurance Plans, a leading trade group, predicted the Trump administration's decision could lead to difficultly for insurers setting rates, a patchwork of state insurance requirements, and higher rates for older and sicker Americans.
Today, surveys suggest most Americans see the legislation in a generally positive light, a reversal from most of its eight-year history.
"Texans have known all along that Obamacare is unlawful and a divided Supreme Court's approval rested exclusively on the flimsy support of Congress's authority to tax", said Paxton when the suit was filed.
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