Trump administration no longer will defend the Affordable Care Act in court

Trump administration no longer will defend the Affordable Care Act in court

The Trump administration is refusing to defend key parts of the Affordable Care Act, essentially arguing that federal courts should find the health law's protections for people with pre-existing conditions unconstitutional.

This current lawsuit, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, argues that since Congress has changed the law to remove the penalty forcing individuals to get insurance, it has inadvertently rendered the rest of the law impermissible, under the 2012 Supreme Court ruling. The Justice Department said the provisions were part of an unconstitutional scheme that required most Americans to carry health insurance.

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the popular consumer protections can not be separated from the unpopular insurance mandate, which Congress has repealed, effective next year.

Should the plaintiffs - and by extension the Trump administration - win their case in district court, it would likely wind up making its way back to Supreme Court, setting up a second round of deliberations on the ACA's constitutionality by the country's highest court that is made possible by the recent GOP tax bill, which eliminated the federal tax on people without health insurance.

"In refusing to follow bipartisan tradition and defend the ACA in the US federal court system, the Trump administration is nakedly admitting that it wants to eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions, breaking a promise that the president has made time and again", said Topher Spiro, vice president of health policy at the Center for American Progress.

House Republicans said Friday they aren't sweating the Trump administration's refusal to defend Obamacare against a lawsuit that could nix popular health care protections, saying the case is in its infancy and they acquitted themselves by offering an alternative health plan previous year.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan explaining that this is a "rare case" that warrants deviating from the Justice Department's "longstanding tradition of defending the constitutionality of duly enacted statutes".

President Trump has long declared the ACA, also known as Obamacare, to be a "disaster", and the brief filed Thursday night is the latest attempt by his administration to weaken former president Barack Obama's signature health-care law.

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In an unusual filing just before 6 p.m. Thursday, when the brief was due, the three career Justice attorneys involved in the case-Joel McElvain, Eric Beckenhauer and Rebecca Kopplin-withdrew. One of their replacements is Brett Shumate, described by the Times as "a Trump administration political appointee in the civil division of the Justice Department who has played a leading role in defending the White House in a range of lawsuits". The insurers say that healthy people will probably opt out of having insurance.

AHIP said it will file an amicus brief in support of the law that "provides more detail about the harm that would come to millions of Americans if the request to invalidate the ACA is granted in whole or in part". But the lawsuit argues that since the mandate can no longer raise any revenue, the mandate itself is now unconstitutional - and so is the entire ACA.

SIMON: And let's start with the question of the individual mandate.

The second is the community rating provision.

Health insurers are trying to lock in individual and small-group major medical policy language, benefits and rates for 2019 now.

"I still believe the ACA was unconstitutional in many aspects and passing under the auspices of the tax argument was not proper", said Chris Collins, who Represents a solidly Republican district in Upstate New York.

Collins said both parties "need to work together to address the instability and high costs plaguing our health care system". In May, the court allowed them to “intervene” in the case. Insurers would be able to charge higher premiums for patients with chronic conditions, in certain occupations, women or older people.

Many health care experts disagree with that position. The lawsuit injects more uncertainty into what is already an uncertain environment for insurers. The letter acknowledges that the decision not to defend an existing law deviates from history but contends that it is not unprecedented.

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