The Trump administration says Obamacare is unconstitutional: What it means to you

Leslie Hanson
June 11, 2018

Just prior to the Trump administration's announcement that it would no longer defend key provisions of the Affordable Care Act in an ongoing case brought by Texas and other states, several career Justice Department attorneys withdrew from the case. "This was often the case before the law took effect and would likely be the same should these essential protections be eliminated".

By contrast, the Justice brief and letter say many other aspects of the law can survive because they can be considered legally distinct from the insurance mandate and such consumer protections as a ban on charging more or refusing coverage to people with preexisting medical conditions.

While they provide major protections to those with pre-existing conditions, they also have pushed up premiums for those who are young and healthy. The policy, unlike some elements of the Affordable Care Act, has widespread support, affecting approximately 52 million Americans under the age of 65, according to a 2016 analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. 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 Affordable Care Act in a "60 Minutes" interview before he took office. Those two were so closely tied to the insurance-buying mandate that they would not work in the health insurance market without the guaranteed pool of insured people that the mandate was designed to create, Administration lawyers contended. Especially for those who did not have any coverage through an employer.

The ACA made all those practices illegal.

The Justice Department legal position nevertheless signals a remarkable willingness by the Trump administration to abandon landmark consumer protections in the health care law that for the first time prohibit health insurers from turning away sick consumers.

Insurers, meanwhile, warned that the administration's actions could rock the individual market and could lead to higher premiums, especially for those battling illnesses. The lawsuit injects more uncertainty into what is already an uncertain environment for insurers.

"Insurance companies hate uncertainty, and when they face uncertainty, they tend to increase premiums and hedge their bets", said Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Department of Justice said it agrees with Texas that the so-called individual mandate will be unconstitutional without the fine.

"The Justice Department has a long-standing, durable, bipartisan commitment to defend acts of Congress".

The president last fall ended "cost-sharing reduction payments" to insurers that offset discounts that the law promises to lower-income customers in the out-of-pocket costs for ACA health plans. "For the Trump administration to crumple that up and throw it out the window is galling".

"These attorneys are civil servants". They're not political. They are good soldiers.

In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, Sessions acknowledged that the executive branch typically defends existing federal law, but he concluded that this is a "rare case where the proper course is to forgo" defense of the individual mandate. "They believed they could not in good conscience, consistent with their professional obligations, sign the brief". United States is an unprecedented dereliction of duty by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Stacy Stanford, policy analyst for the Utah Health Policy Project, a think tank and advocacy organization that is also a federal health exchange enrollment hub, said "the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and therefore the administration should be defending it".

In parting company with the challenging states on their demand that all of the ACA be nullified, the Administration document said it was hypothetical speculation whether the entire program would collapse without the individual mandate and the related insurance coverage requirements. "I'm astounded, and it's not only recklessness on lots of scores in terms of the legal reasoning", said Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va.

Last year, the House passed an Obamacare replacement but the Senate failed to pass its own, after three Republicans voted with Democrats to kill a bill that leveraged special budget rules to avoid a filibuster.

While the ACA has been the target of a sharply divided and partisan debate for almost a decade, pre-existing protections are one of the most popular actions Congress has taken in modern times. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., to establish a single-payer health-care system, suggesting that would become the Democrats' agenda if they were to regain power.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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