Trump's Midterm Gift To Dems: A War On Pre-Existing Condition Protections

The Trump administration is calling a key part of Obamacare that protects individuals with pre-existing conditions unconstitutional

The Trump administration is calling a key part of Obamacare that protects individuals with pre-existing conditions unconstitutional

The U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday that the part of Obamacare requiring individuals to have health insurance is unconstitutional, an unusual move that could lead to stripping away some of the most significant and popular parts of the law.

Reyes said Friday that "the individual mandate can not be severed" from the parts of the Affordable Care Act that prohibit insurers from increasing a person's premium rates or denying them coverage based on their health history.

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the popular consumer protections can not be separated from the unpopular insurance mandate, which Congress has repealed, effective next year.

The shift to health care is a notable strategy by which Democrats are hoping to remind American voters that Republicans are "deliberately sabotaging" the health care system, as Schumer put it in a letter he wrote to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier in the week.

In a surprise action Thursday night, the Trump administration said it is mostly siding with 20 Republican-led states that brought a suit against the ACA, saying it is unconstitutional.

Repealing Obamacare has been a rallying cry for Republican candidates for the past eight years.

Why they did it: Republicans have targeted the Affordable Care Act for elimination ever since it passed, and President Trump continues to promise that it will be overturned. Although the challengers had suggested that "a chain reaction of failed policymaking" would occur once the mandate was invalidated, the government lawyers said that the challengers could not show that striking down the mandate and the closely-tied coverage clauses "means that the ACA necessarily ceases to implement any coherent federal policy". The states argue that after Congress eliminated the penalty for the individual mandate past year, effective in 2019, it destabilized other sections of the law.

On June 7, California and the other states with Democratic attorneys general filed their response to the preliminary injunction motion.

The Supreme Court in 2012 upheld a major provision of the law that required most Americans to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty.

The administration's decision also is likely to further roil insurance markets that are seeing very large premium increases, fed in part by other moves by the Trump administration to loosen insurance regulations. Tellingly, three career Justice Department attorneys withdrew from representing the United States immediately before filing the brief, apparently unwilling to sign their names to a legally questionable brief. For example, the Obama administration refused in 2011 to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which blocked federal recognition of same-sex marriages in some states.

"This suit is an outrageous assault by the administration and congressional Republicans on older Americans, people with disabilities and the 52 million adults with pre-existing conditions", said U.S. Sen. In May, the court allowed them to "intervene" in the case.

Sessions, in his letter to Ryan, said that the parts of the law restricting the variance in the premiums that could be charged and requiring insurers to cover everyone did hinge on the mandate, because without the mandate, "individuals could wait until they become sick to purchase insurance, thus driving up premiums for everyone else".

"Tonight, as the president and his administration launch their most risky sabotage effort yet, we are seeing just how far Republicans are willing to go in their quest to undermine the American health care system", said Brad Woodhouse, campaign director of Protect Our Care, an advocacy group staffed with many Obama administration alums.

If the court agrees with the Justice Department's argument to toss out part of the law that protects individuals with an existing medical condition, that could affect millions of Americans who buy insurance directly from the marketplace. The government has essentially pivoted from defending the law to agreeing with the states that the court should demolish it.

But the administration disagrees with that position. A Justice Department spokeswoman said the lawyers' withdrawal had been a department decision, declining to specify whether the lawyers had personally objected to continuing on the case. "Both sides, Democrats and Republicans, are using the people as political pawns".

Here's their argument, and what they want. 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. Judge Reed O'Connor was named to the court by President George W. Bush and has ruled against other aspects of the Affordable Care Act.

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