Justice Department takes aim at heart of health law
- Author: Santos West Jun 12, 2018,
Jun 12, 2018, 1:46
The decision, announced in a filing in a federal court in Texas, is a rare departure from the Justice Department's practice of defending federal laws in court. The guarantee that people should be able to buy insurance regardless of their health history has been a popular provision of the divisive law - one that President Trump has praised, calling the law's prohibition on denying insurance to sick people "one of the strongest assets" of the Affordable Care Act in a "60 Minutes" interview before he took office.
But Justice Department lawyers do argue that with no penalty for not having coverage, the federal government can not make health insurers cover sick consumers or prohibit insurers from charging sick consumers higher premiums, as was routinely done before the health care law was implemented.
In Virginia's 2017 elections, for instance, exit polls showed health care far and away the most important issue for voters, and those who said it was their top issue picked Democrat Ralph Northam over Republican Ed Gillespie in the governor's race by a margin of 77-22 percent. Insurers were not allowed to raise costs for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
Answer: The Justice Department told a federal district court in Texas on Thursday that the health care law's key provision - a mandate requiring most people to buy insurance - is soon to be unconstitutional. Even when insurers offered policies to those with health problems, they often excluded those illnesses. "It suggests that future administrations can pick and choose which laws they're going to enforce", he said. Not only may health insurance continue getting less affordable, they even want to take away the pre-existing conditions protection you now enjoy, all while they're working hard to destabilize the private insurance market.
"Late last night, we informed a Texas court that we would not be defending the constitutionality of the Obamacare mandate", he continued. No one in CT - or anywhere - should have to fear that they or their loved ones will be kicked to the curb and refused care when they need it most.
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.
Before the Trump administration'ss response on Thursday, Democratic Attorneys General filed [JURIST Report] a motion to intervene [text, PDF] in April to defend the ACA anticipating the Trump administration's intention to not uphold the legislation.
On Thursday, the Trump administration further roiled the debate by stating in court that it would not defend one of the law's most popular provisions, which forbids insurance companies from denying coverage to customers with preexisting conditions or charging them more.
Weighing in on a Texas challenge to the health law, the Justice Department argued that legally and practically the popular consumer protections can not be separated from the unpopular insurance mandate, which Congress has repealed, effective next year.
A coalition of 20 states led by attorneys from Texas and Wisconsin sued the government in February for the repeal of the Obamacare provisions.
For years Democrats ran from the health-care issue as though it were a heap of flaming rubble, which, politically speaking, it was.
Bagley, a former Justice Department attorney, said the DOJ has a "durable, longstanding, bipartisan commitment" to defending the laws passed by Congress as long as there is a legitimate "non-frivolous" argument to be made in its defense. But the court will take notice that the Trump administration has switched sides.
As the Cuomo administration frequently points out, the state's uninsured rate has fallen to below 5%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and insurance can be purchased for less than half its price in 2013 before the ACA was implemented.
Sessions said in his letter that the Justice Department was not arguing that the entire law did not pass constitutional muster.
Rep. Tom MacArthur, New Jersey Republican, included a provision in the House bill that would have required insurers to cover sicker Americans but allowed states to waive the prohibition on charging them higher premiums.
"This lawsuit is less about altering the law and more about blowing it up", Levitt said.
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that more than 16 million Americans suffer from depression each year. "No matter what Washington spin Bob Casey puts on it, the fact remains access to care got worse and costs skyrocketed early in the Obama Administration due to the disastrous law Casey supported".