GOP risks fallout from Justice Department move on health law

The Trump administration is calling a key part of Obamacare that protects individuals with pre-existing conditions unconstitutional

The Trump administration is calling a key part of Obamacare that protects individuals with pre-existing conditions unconstitutional

The Trump administration's move drew strong criticism from defenders of the health care law and some legal scholars, who noted how unusual it is for the Justice Department not to defend federal law.

Back when Republicans were trying to come up with a way to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they quickly realized that while most Americans had only a vague sense of what was in the law, there were parts of it that were extraordinarily popular.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released on Thursday - before the Trump administration decision was unveiled - found health care was the top issue for all voters and that it's an issue where Democrats have an overwhelming advantage.

"The American public widely supports retaining protections for pre-existing conditions".

Twenty states are suing the federal government, saying the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional now that Congress has repealed the fine for people who do not have health insurance. Health insurers have for years been raising premiums, complaining about uncertainty and withdrawing from the business of selling individual insurance plans, and more changes could further destabilize the market. "It suggests that future administrations can pick and choose which laws they're going to enforce", he said.

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 DOJ agrees with Texas that the individual mandate is unconstitutional once the tax penalty was zeroed out, and if it is struck down, the guaranteed issue and community ratings provisions go with it", said Jost.

If the Trump administration isn't going to defend the health law in this lawsuit, who will?

While the DOJ has a longstanding tradition of defending federal laws when they are challenged in court, there is a rare case when the proper course is to forgo defense of the law, Sessions said. In the tax law, Congress repealed the penalty for people who fail to have health insurance starting in 2019. In this case, California is leading a group of Democrat-led states in defending the law.

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The DoJ also sided with the states in arguing that two of the law's core consumer protections - which make health insurers cover sick consumers and prohibit them from charging sick consumers higher premiums - can not be severed from the individual mandate and, therefore, are likewise unconstitutional.

"Tonight, the Trump Administration took its cynical sabotage campaign of Americans' health care to a stunning new low", Pelosi said in a statement. Now that Congress has chose to zero out the penalty, as Republicans did a year ago as part of the 2017 tax cut, the pre-existing conditions have to go, too. Conservatives at the time accused the Justice Department of politicization. Health officials halved the sign-up period to buy ACA health plans, cutting from $100 million to $10 million an advertising budget to help encourage consumers to sign up, and slashed funds for grass-roots organizations that helped people enroll. If the court ends up siding with the Trump administration and the Republican states that brought the suit, the consequences would be significant, Perlman said.

If the court takes that action, "the ACA's provisions containing the individual mandate as well as the guaranteed-issue and community-rating requirements will all be invalid beginning on January 1, 2019", the department lawyers write in a memorandum addressed to the court. "Our coalition of states and partners across the country will fight any effort to strip families of their health insurance", he said. 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.

"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.

After filing the brief in Texas, Attorney General Jeff Sessions informed Speaker of the House Paul Ryan of the decision.

Democrats "are responsible for the current problems that we have in our healthcare system as a result of Obamacare", said Hunt, noting the law passed without a single Republican vote.

"Texans have known all along that Obamacare is unlawful and a divided Supreme Court's approval rested exclusively on the flimsy support of Congress's authority to tax", said Paxton when the suit was filed.

Some 70 percent of folks said the federal government should continue prohibiting insurers from charging more to those with pre-existing conditions, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll from June 2017.

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