Trump Administration Move Imperils Pre-Existing Condition Protections


"The Justice Department's refusal to defend the Affordable Care Act in federal court is a stunning attack on the rule of law, the stability of our health care system, and Americans" access to affordable health care", said Reps.

Late Thursday, the department said the health law's requirement that most Americans carry insurance will become unconstitutional next year and so will consumer protections forbidding insurers to deny coverage to sick customers or charge them more.

Democrats swiftly portrayed the surprise move by the Justice Department, outlined Thursday in a brief supporting a court case filed by Texas and 19 other states, as a harsh blow to Americans with fragile health and their families.

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.

Republicans on Capitol Hill had no advance warning that the administration was going to assert that protections for people with preexisting conditions is unconstitutional - a position that defies President Donald Trump's promises to maintain those protections. "At the worst it could strip away guaranteed coverage for those with pre-existing conditions".

The U.S. Justice Department has told a Texas federal court that it won't defend provisions in the Affordable Care Act that ban insurers from refusing to cover people with pre-existing conditions and from charging them more money. "It's a cornerstone of what they do", he says.

These sections of the law, along with the mandate that insurers provide comprehensive coverage, are the bedrock of Obamacare's protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

At issue is a lawsuit filed by 20 Republican state attorneys general on February 26, which charged that Congress changes to the law in last years tax bill rendered the entire ACA unconstitutional.

Republicans seem determined not only to make American health care more inefficient and cruel in every way they can think of, but to do it while making themselves as unpopular as possible.

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Republican Leonard Lance of New Jersey said the Justice Department should back off its effort, and said that if courts did rule against preexisting protections then Congress should act. With President Trump's tax reform package in December 2017 removing the individual mandate requirement as a tax penalty, the last remaining reasoning to having a mandate fell apart, the suit argues.

California and 15 other states filed an opposing brief on Thursday defending the law.

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.

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. "Both sides, Democrats and Republicans, are using the people as political pawns".

Nevertheless, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, criticized the Trump administration in a statement. "Next year, when that penalty is no longer going to apply, more people are going to want to have a good health insurance option that is not ObamaCare-qualified, and they don't have those options right now".

"This lawsuit is less about altering the law and more about blowing it up", Levitt said. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of ME, previously helped tank Republicans' efforts to repeal and replace the ACA citing their concerns over the possible elimination of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

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. But it does certainly raise the prospect of a court decision that would say there could be no more protections for people with preexisting conditions.

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". They must grapple with how to protect the state's insurance market amid a continued assault against the federal health law.

The states say that without the individual mandate, the whole ACA should be struck down as unconstitutional.