On Thursday, the Trump administration clearly outlined their position on key - and popular - provisions in the Affordable Care Act, telling a court that the law should be invalidated and that the individual mandate is unconstitutional. It also said 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.
In a brief filed Thursday in federal district court in Texas, the department argues that the individual mandate, as well as the community rating and guaranteed issue provisions of the law, are all unconstitutional and need not be defended in a case now pending before the court.
House Republicans said Friday they aren't sweating the Trump administration's refusal to defend Obamacare against a lawsuit that could nix popular health care protections, saying the case is in its infancy and they acquitted themselves by offering an alternative health plan a year ago.
The issue became a flash point that helped derail Republican efforts to repeal the law a year ago, with opponents of the party's health bills speaking loudly against weakening protections for the sick and vulnerable. However, Sessions added, "Outside of these two provisions of the ACA, the department will continue to argue that [the individual mandate] is severable from the remaining provisions of the ACA" and therefore the rest of the law is valid.
Before the Trump administration'ss response on Thursday, Democratic Attorneys General filed [JURIST Report] a motion to intervene [text, PDF] in April to defend the ACA anticipating the Trump administration's intention to not uphold the legislation.
The lawsuit's key argument is that Congress intended for the pre-existing condition protections to work in tandem with the law's individual mandate, the provision that people have insurance or pay a penalty.
The nation's top insurers' lobby said Friday the administration's position is untenable and could destabilize the markets as insurers develop their offerings for next year.
"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.
Insurers have faced risks tied to the Trump administration's efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act since his election.
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.More news: KFC to Test New Vegetarian 'Fried Chicken' With Original Herbs, Spices
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Health care is already a dominant issue in this year's elections, with voters regularly citing it as a leading determinant for how they will vote.
U.S. Department of Justice lawyers launched that attack on part of the ACA Wednesday, by asking a federal court in Texas to let the governments of Texas and other states that oppose the ACA win part of a suit they have filed - but only part of their suit. However, he said, Bailey opposes the individual mandate and wants less government regulation of health insurance.
"Tonight, as the president and his administration launch their most unsafe sabotage effort yet, we are seeing just how far Republicans are willing to go in their quest to undermine the American health care system", said Brad Woodhouse, campaign director of Protect Our Care, an advocacy group staffed with many Obama administration alums. "This was often the case before the law took effect and would likely be the same should these essential protections be eliminated". They contend that the ACA provision requiring most Americans to carry health insurance soon will no longer be constitutional and that, as a result, consumer insurance protections under the law are not valid either. The Justice Department isn't asking for anything immediately. The Justice Department says only the protections for people with preexisting conditions are linked to the tax - not the rest of the law, including the expansion of Medicaid.
Sessions agreed that the executive branch has a "longstanding tradition of defending the constitutionality of duly enacted statutes if reasonable arguments can be made in their defense".
Typically, the department defends federal laws in court.
Just hours before the Justice Department officially withdrew from the case, three of the staff attorneys who had been working on it withdrew.
The case is Texas v. U.S., 4:18-cv-001 67, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Fort Worth).
Ironically, the existence of that financial penalty in the law was what had saved the individual insurance mandate from being struck down by the Supreme Court six years ago.