DOJ won't defend Affordable Care Act provisions in court

Jun 12, 2018, 01:42
DOJ won't defend Affordable Care Act provisions in court

A central rule of ACA health plans is that they must welcome all customers, healthy and sick, and not charge higher premiums to those with preexisting conditions. It will add fuel to Democrats' efforts to make health care a campaign issue in the mid-term elections.

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

Asked about the Justice Department move, Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, spoke instead about the Democrats.

SIMON: We've been getting reports from all over the country about how health care premiums are going up. "This was often the case before the law took effect and would likely be the same should these essential protections be eliminated".

Medicaid is considered to be the largest source of health coverage for the USA.

Recent polling has found that health care is a crucial issue for voters this year. "I didn't vote for the tax bill".

According to the AP, the administration said it agrees that the law's individual mandate is unconstitutional without the fine and that language protecting those with medical conditions from being denied coverage or charged higher premiums should also be struck down.

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The issue became a flash point that helped derail Republican efforts to repeal the law past year, with opponents of the party's health bills speaking loudly against weakening protections for the sick and vulnerable.

Nevertheless, the Justice Department's position did not go quite as far as the Texas suit.

But that was not the talking point of the party's re-election arm. 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. This came after President Donald Trump had already eliminated the penalty attached to the individual mandate that required to Americans to get health insurance.

"The individual mandate thus still exists", the filing said, but with the associated financial penalty gone, "it will no longer be fairly possible to describe it as a tax because it will no longer generate any revenue".

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. The Supreme Court's 2012 ruling that upheld the Affordable Care Act called the individual mandate penalty a tax - and therefore legal.

If the administration prevails in the case, the full force of the decision would not hit until after the midterm elections on November 6.

ROVNER: Well, one of the reasons it's happening - say the insurers, who are filing their rates now for next year - is because they took away this penalty for people who don't have insurance. Under another provision, the community rating provision, insurers were not allowed to set premiums based on a person's health history.

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"You can't pull the rug out from underneath people with pre-existing conditions", O'Donnell said.

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.

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.

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.

"This lawsuit is less about altering the law and more about blowing it up", Levitt said. "This is a sad moment".

Before the brief was filed, three career lawyers at the Justice Department withdrew from the case.

"The mandate is "'essential' to the operation of [those] provisions" because they can not work without the coverage requirement, the department said.

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Despite the Justice Department position, the Health and Human Services Department has continued to apply the health law. "Such withdrawals are exceedingly rare - typically only when the argument is indefensible, as they are here". In a surprise action Thursday night, the Trump administration said it is mostly siding with 20 Republican-led states that brought a suit against the ACA, saying it is unconstitutional. "Both sides, Democrats and Republicans, are using the people as political pawns".

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