Lawsuit could jeopardize health care for 52 million

Justice Department says heart of Obama Care unconstitutional

Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a three-page letter to House and Senate leaders for both parties, saying the Justice Department wouldn't defend the individual mandate or the provisions, from a lawsuit filed by Texas and 19 other states.

The DOJ in fact sided in large part with the states, arguing that the law's protections for people with pre-existing conditions should be invalidated.

The DOJ believes pre-existing conditions and the individual mandate must go hand-in-hand, claiming that part of the law is now unconstitutional.

While the case still must play out before the nation's high court, the Justice Department's decision to not defend the law could create some uncertainty for health insurers that sell plans on the Affordable Care Act marketplace, according to Larry Levitt, a Kaiser Family Foundation senior vice president who closely monitors the health law. Instead, Justice officials argue in their brief that the ACA's insurance requirement will not become unconstitutional until January, so that "the injury imposed by the individual mandate is not sufficiently imminent" and that the judge could issue a final ruling in the case before then.

Led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, the lawsuit said that without the individual mandate, Obamacare in its entirety was unlawful.

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".

Trump and fellow Republicans in Congress have sought to dismantle Obamacare, which sought to expand insurance coverage to more Americans. "It's important for consumers to know that the Affordable Care Act and the protections it ensures for their coverage are still the law, and they should continue to see their health providers and plan to shop for coverage this fall as they have any other year", says Imholz.

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Before the Affordable Care Act marketplace launched in 2014, people with chronic diseases who tried to buy their own insurance were routinely denied coverage based on their medical history.

While the case has to play out from here, the administration's striking position raises the possibility that major parts of the law could be struck down - a year after the Republican Congress failed at attempts to repeal core provisions.

"This is yet another malicious Republican attack that will undermine the stability of our healthcare system, and could once again mean that you or a loved one are denied healthcare because of a pre-existing condition", said Meredith Kelly, the communications director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

California and 15 other states also filed a brief Thursday to intervene and defend the ACA and its consumer protections. The rest of the ACA can function without the mandate, the brief says, and should be retained. In their suit, lodged in February in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, they argue that the entire law is now invalid.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a letter to Congress that Trump, who campaigned on repealing the law and almost did so his first year in office, approved the legal strategy.

Donald Verrilli Jr., President Barack Obama's top Supreme Court lawyer who defended the law, called the decision "a sad moment".

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