Another legal battle brews over health care law

12 June, 2018, 01:41 | Author: Jeffery Armstrong
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In a federal court case filed by Texas and 19 other states against the ACA, the Justice Department filed a brief on Thursday that dubbed unconstitutional the Obamacare requirement for all Americans to have insurance. Rather, it argued that without the tax to encourage healthy people to sign up, the parts of the law guaranteeing coverage to people who have chronic illnesses or other pre-existing health conditions should be struck down as well.

The legal challenge led by the state of Texas argues that these consumer protections - as well as the law's multibillion-dollar program for expanding the Medicaid safety net to poor Americans - should be scrapped because Congress previous year repealed the penalty on Americans who don't have health coverage.

Democrats, who were already favored going into this November's election both on the generic ballot and on health care in particular, pounced on the news of the lawsuit, predicting "serious blowback in the midterms" for Republicans.

"The pre-existing condition thing is what the ads will be run on", said Blendon.

For the first time, the Trump Administration moved on Thursday to challenge the constitutionality of the key section of the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") that required most Americans to buy health insurance or pay a financial penalty as part of their taxes. "It's a cornerstone of what they do", he says.

Becerra is leading an effort by Democratic attorney generals from others states and the District of Columbia to defend the ACA against that lawsuit.

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The states are now arguing that once Congress repealed the tax penalty for the individual mandate in the 2017 law, no more constitutional authority exists for Congress to keep the individual mandate in place. The administration decided its "dislike for the Affordable Care Act outweighed its respect for the rule of law".

Nicholas Bagley, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School who had been a Justice Department lawyer, says DOJ's move is troubling.

The Justice Department argued the judge should strike down the section of the law that protects people buying insurance from being charged higher premiums due to their health history.

About 1.5 million Californians buy coverage through the states ACA exchange, Covered California, and almost 4 million have joined Medicaid as a result of the programs expansion under the law.

On Thursday, the Trump administration further roiled the debate by stating in court that it would not defend one of the law's most popular provisions, which forbids insurance companies from denying coverage to customers with preexisting conditions or charging them more.

The Justice Department lawyers representing Trump's U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Trump's Internal Revenue Services have asked the court to narrow the scope of the suit, and then to grant a ruling in favor of Texas and its allies on the narrower version of the suit.

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Also, 39 percent of registered voters in today's NBC/WSJ said they are enthusiastic or comfortable with a candidate seeking to repeal Obamacare, compared to 49 percent who said they have reservations or were very uncomfortable with a candidate seeking to repeal the health care law. Conservatives at the time accused the Justice Department of politicization. But it seems less worrisome than the possibility that courts, including the Supreme Court, might actually adopt the Trump administration's view and strike down the ACA provisions on pre-existing conditions. There are about 21 million people who do so, buying either through insurance brokers or from a state or federal Affordable Care Act marketplace.

The administration called on the court to declare that the provisions that guarantee coverage will be "invalid beginning on January 1, 2019", when the mandate penalty goes away.

"I don't understand why the White House would do this, and no one is communicating how they want people to navigate this issue", said one Republican strategist working on Senate races, who demanded anonymity to speak freely. It will lead to "renewed uncertainty in the individual market" and a "patchwork of requirements in the states" and make it more challenging to offer coverage next year.

In a three-page letter to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Attorney General Jeff Sessions acknowledged "the Executive Branch has a longstanding tradition of defending the constitutionality of duly enacted statutes if reasonable arguments can be made in their defense".

Supporters of the health care law expressed considerable alarm on Friday.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that more than 16 million Americans suffer from depression each year. Under normal circumstances, the federal government would defend the law.

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