Trump administration won't defend key parts of Affordable Care Act
- Lena Vasquez
"United States, the department will not defend the constitutionality of [the individual mandate], and will argue that certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are inseverable from that provision", U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) explaining his decision.
The government's main point of contention in this case is that it's no longer fair to make insurance companies cover people with pre-existing conditions now that the individual mandate requiring all Americans to buy into the health insurance pool is gone.
Mr. MacArthur said it would be hard for Congress to revisit the brutal health care fight, although it's unclear if the lawsuit will get "any legs under it".
Health care is already a dominant issue in this year's elections, with voters regularly citing it as a leading determinant for how they will vote. Under the current health care law individuals can not be denied healthcare due to their existing health condition.
Nevertheless, the Justice Department's position did not go quite as far as the Texas suit. A December 2016 poll by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that 75 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of Republicans approved of the law's provision prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage based on a person's health status or medical history. The states argue that after Congress eliminated the penalty for the individual mandate, effective in 2019, as part of last year's tax reform bill, it destabilized other sections of the law. The brief was filed in Texas v. Azar, a case brought in February by Texas and 19 other Republican-led states. United States argue that this rationale, such as it was, no longer applies because Congress reduced the tax-penalty to zero a year ago. Andy Slavitt, who ran the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Obama, tweeted that the Justice Department's decision is the "biggest health care news of the year" and a blow to public health.
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". "Congress has now kicked that flimsy support from beneath the law".
"At the very least it adds uncertainty at exactly the moment when plans are trying to set rates for next year", said Ceci Connolly, the chief executive of the Alliance of Community Health Plans.
Diabetes, pregnancy and arthritis are all considered a pre-existing condition.
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"We won't sit back as Texas and others try yet again to dismantle our healthcare system".
Bailey's spokesman Corey Uhden said Friday that he wouldn't comment on the constitutionality of the ACA provisions.
America's Health Insurance Plans said Friday that it plans to file a brief opposing the plaintiffs' request for emergency relief that would provides detail about the harm that would come to millions of Americans should their request to invalidate the ACA is granted either in whole or in part.
"The decision by the Department of Justice to abandon critical patient protections is devastating for the millions of Americans who suffer from serious illnesses or have pre-existing conditions and rely on those protections under current law to obtain life-saving health care", wrote a coalition of patient advocacy groups, including the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association.
Three career lawyers in the department's civil division withdrew from the case earlier Thursday and did not sign the brief.
Those with pre-existing conditions should continue being guaranteed coverage at affordable rates, said Orange County Legislator James O'Donnell, the Republican candidate for U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney's 18th District seat. "Removing those provisions will result in renewed uncertainty in the individual market, create a patchwork of requirements in the states, cause rates to go even higher for older Americans and sicker patients, and make it challenging to introduce products and rates for 2019", Matt Eyles, AHIP's president and CEO, said Friday in a statement.
The suit is being heard by Judge Reed O'Connell, who was appointed by President George W. Bush and has ruled against the ACA in other cases the past few years.
Ultimately, we'll all have to wait to see where the court sides on the argument, which is little comfort to the 130 million people with pre-existing conditions who could soon find themselves in a world of financial trouble.
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