Justice Department move on health law has risks for GOP

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

Unless you have been vacationing in a far away galaxy, you will have heard the ululations of Obamacare apologists enraged by the Trump administration's refusal to defend the health care law against a 20-state lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.Obamacare advocates claim that the failure to defend the ACA in Texas v.

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.

The legal challenge led by the state of Texas argues that these consumer protections - as well as the law's multibillion-dollar program for expanding the Medicaid safety net to poor Americans - should be scrapped because Congress previous year repealed the penalty on Americans who don't have health coverage.

Democrats don't mind this comparison, in part because polls have shown that not only is health care a top issue for many voters, but it's an issue that helps Democrats.

Professor Nicholas Bagley, of the University of MI, says the case required the Trump administration to decide whether it will defend the ACA from constitutional attack. Now that Congress has made a decision to zero out the penalty, as Republicans did past year as part of the 2017 tax cut, the pre-existing conditions have to go, too. "I think what they're doing is wrong, I think their attempts to overturn the Affordable Care Act have been wrong, but look, they're the majority, they set the schedule".

Legal specialists also point out that the Trump administration's failure to defend the federal health law could have long-lasting implications for the rule of law in the nation.

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.

The federal lawsuit hinges on the ACA's individual mandate, or the requirement to get health coverage or pay a penalty.

Republican Leonard Lance of New Jersey said the Justice Department should back off its effort, and said that if courts did rule against preexisting protections then Congress should act.

Expansions to Medicaid that occurred in individual states prior to the Affordable Care Act were excluded from the review analysis.

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.

NY was one of 17 states to intervene in the case in May in defense of the ACA.

But Sessions also said that he agrees with the Department of Justice's opinion at the time of the 2012 case, that if the mandate is unconstitutional, it is separate from the ACA's other provisions, except those guaranteeing issuance of coverage in the individual and group market. What's at issue here is the fact that Congress is getting rid of the penalty for the individual mandate, reducing it to zero as of next January 1 - January 1, 2019.

"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.

The news rallied defenders of the law into action and raised questions among legal scholars about the likelihood it would succeed.

Regardless of the federal court's ruling-which observers said may come by late summer or early fall-New York state law now protects consumers from such actions by insurers. They contend that the ACA provision requiring most Americans to carry health insurance soon will no longer be constitutional and that, as a result, consumer insurance protections under the law are not valid either.

Nicholas Bagley, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School who had been a Justice Department lawyer, says DOJ's move is troubling.

Many health care experts disagree with that position.

Three career lawyers in the department's civil division withdrew from the case earlier Thursday and did not sign the brief.

Despite the Justice Department position, the Health and Human Services Department has continued to apply the health law. "Both sides, Democrats and Republicans, are using the people as political pawns".

And now, the Trump administration has told the public that they want to make things much, much worse. The lawsuit will be heard by U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor of the Northern District of Texas.

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