Friday, 17 August, 2018

Trump administration won't defend ACA in case brought by GOP states

WASHINGTON DC- JUNE 07 U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the Rose Garden at the White House Mark Wilson Getty Images President Trump
Melissa Porter | 10 June, 2018, 17:59

In a brief filed in a Texas federal court, the Justice Department said the ACA's individual mandate - which required most Americans to carry health insurance - can no longer be interpreted as a tax "because it will raise no revenue as Congress has eliminated the monetary penalty".

A coalition of 20 US states sued the federal government in February, claiming the law was no longer constitutional after last year's repeal of the penalty that individuals had to pay for not having insurance.

The brief explains that the Trump Justice Department agrees in large part with the 20 Republican-led states who brought the suit.

"Zeroing out the individual mandate penalty should not result in striking important consumer protections, such as guaranteed issue and community rating rules, that help those with pre-existing conditions", AHIP said in a statement.

That includes the requirement that people have health insurance and sections that guarantee access to coverage regardless of any medical conditions, the Associated Press reported.

About 1.5 million Californians buy coverage through the state's ACA exchange, Covered California, and almost 4 million have joined Medicaid as a result of the program's expansion under the law. However, the federal support for the states' lawsuit is unusual, since the Justice Department typically defends existing law.

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.

Becerra is leading an effort by Democratic attorney generals from others states and the District of Columbia to defend the ACA against that lawsuit.

The state has been at the forefront in resisting many Trump Administration policies, including on health care and immigration. The rest of the ACA can function without the mandate, the brief says, and should be retained. Insurers say the individual health insurance market is more stable than people might think. There is reason to believe the judge may accept the Trump administration's arguments.

The Democrats argued that DOJ's refusal to defend the controversial health care law could eliminate protections for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions and "have profound consequences for patients, the health care system and the American economy".

These consumer protections proved enormously popular with Americans and are among the reasons why efforts to repeal Obamacare in Congress failed previous year. But Martin S. Lederman, a Georgetown University law professor who was a Justice Department official in the Obama administration, called the mass withdrawal a likely sign of distress. It also says that provisions shielding people with medical conditions from being denied coverage or charged higher premiums and limiting how much insurers can charge older Americans should fall as well.

Many advocates spoke out against the Trump administration's stance on the law's consumer protections.

Democrats are seeking to tie the move into their argument that the Trump administration is "sabotaging" health care and driving up premiums, a key midterm message.

Moreover, if the Trump administration did not want to defend the ACA expressly, it could simply have filed a jurisdictional motion, asserting that the states are not injured by the lack of an individual mandate penalty and that the litigation is not yet timely, as the tax is still in effect.