Health Care

ACA challenge Trump won't defend

ACA challenge Trump won't defend

The Trump administration is refusing to defend key parts of the Affordable Care Act, essentially arguing that federal courts should find the health law's protections for people with pre-existing conditions unconstitutional. The Justice Department, in backing the state's argument, is seeking to strike down two of Obamacare's most popular provisions: the rule that insurance companies can't turn someone away or charge them more based on a pre-existing condition, and the rule that limits how much insurers can charge older patients for their premiums.

The states argue that after Congress eliminated the penalty for the individual mandate, effective in 2019, as part of last year's tax reform bill, it destabilized other sections of the law. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

The Justice Department's decision was announced Thursday in a filing in federal court in Texas.

This current lawsuit, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, argues that since Congress has changed the law to remove the penalty forcing individuals to get insurance, it has inadvertently rendered the rest of the law impermissible, under the 2012 Supreme Court ruling. Yet he has granted standing to a group of 17 Democratic-led states that filed a brief on Thursday night arguing for the preservation of Obamacare, and will no doubt give them a fair hearing.

Margaret Murray, the chief executive of the Association for Community Affiliated Plans, which represents plans for low-income and vulnerable populations, said that anyone who has bought individual insurance "and has had so much as a case of asthma in their past should be deeply unsettled by the choices this administration has made".

"We strongly condemn the Administration's decision not to defend the patient protections provided in the Affordable Care Act, an established law of the land", APA President Altha Stewart, M.D. said. He said he acted after "careful consideration" and with the "approval of the President of the United States". Prior to the ACA, insurers often rejected applicants who were ill or had pre-existing conditions or only offered them limited coverage. "Congress has now kicked that flimsy support from beneath the law". It will add fuel to Democrats' efforts to make health care a campaign issue in the mid-term elections.

The U.S. Justice Department says it will no longer defend major parts of the Affordable Care Act in court. 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.

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".

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Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, slammed the Trump administration on Friday for not defending the ACA in court.

She cited a report from health care think tank Kaiser Family Foundation that estimates more than 52 million Americans have pre-existing health problems that would "likely leave them uninsurable" if it weren't for the Affordable Care Act's regulations. The Justice Department isn't asking for anything immediately.

Three career lawyers in the department's civil division withdrew from the case earlier Thursday and did not sign the brief.

Many health care experts disagree with that position.

"If the Justice Department can just throw in the towel whenever a law is challenged in court, it can effectively pick and choose which laws should remain on the books", wrote Bagley. A Justice Department spokeswoman said the lawyers' withdrawal had been a department decision, declining to specify whether the lawyers had personally objected to continuing on the case. "But even if the Justice Department's arguments fail, as they should, the administration's violation of its duty to faithfully execute our nation's laws will still raise the cost of health care for most Americans, undermine the economy, and weaken our democracy for years to come".

Recent polling indicates that this could be a political victor for Democrats attempting to recapture at least one chamber of Congress.

The Texas district court judge, Judge Reed O'Connor, still has to rule on the request Texas and Texas' allies have made for the preliminary injunction.