Wednesday, 15 August, 2018

Justice Department says heart of Affordable Care Act unconstitutional

Trump justice department will stop defending key parts of Obamacare DOJ Argues Parts Of Obamacare Are Unconstitutional After Mandate Repeal
Celia Hoffman | 10 June, 2018, 17:56

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.

A group of 20 US states sued the federal government in February, claiming the law was no longer constitutional after last year's repeal of that penalty that individuals had to pay for not having insurance.

The decision by the department (DoJ) was announced in a filing in a federal court in Texas, part of a lawsuit brought by Texas and other Republican-led states to strike down the entire law.

"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. 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 ACA in a "60 Minutes" interview before he took office.

But it said the rest of the law, including Medicaid expansion, can remain in place.

"If the Trump administration is successful in arguing against the constitutionality of protecting patients' access to care, it will have immediate and disastrous effect on our health care system and the American people", the lawmakers say.

California and 15 other states also filed a brief Thursday to intervene and defend the ACA and its consumer protections.

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Timothy Jost, law professor emeritus at Washington and Lee University in Virginia said the Trump administration is trying to persuade the court to do what it was unable to achieve in Congress past year - essentially, repeal key parts of the Obama health law. As a result, the entire remainder of the ACA must be upheld, even if the court finds the mandate unconstitutional.

"Because the mandate is unconstitutional, those. elements must fail as well", he said.

What are the ramifications of the Trump administration making these arguments? There is reason to believe the judge may accept the Trump administration's arguments.

Nevertheless, the Justice Department's position did not go quite as far as the Texas suit. It also says that provisions shielding people with medical conditions from being denied coverage or charged higher premiums and limiting how much insurers can charge older Americans should fall as well. That means consumer insurance protections under the law are not valid either, the brief argues.

Reyes said Friday that "the individual mandate can not be severed" from the parts of the Affordable Care Act that prohibit insurers from increasing a person's premium rates or denying them coverage based on their health history.

"In refusing to follow bipartisan tradition and defend the ACA in the USA 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.

The takeaway for consumers: This shouldn't deter people from seeking health insurance.

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