AHIP, Others React to DOJ Move Against ACA in Texas

Glen Mclaughlin
June 12, 2018

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said it is "a rare case" for the Justice Department not to defend provisions of a law but added that he could not find any "reasonable arguments" to support their constitutionality. Rather, it argued that without the tax to encourage healthy people to sign up, the parts of the law guaranteeing coverage to people who have chronic illnesses or other pre-existing health conditions should be struck down as well.

Now, the Justice Department's stance in a federal-court case in Texas will allow Democrats to argue that Republicans want to deny affordable health coverage to some of the people who need it most.

The brief was filed in Texas v. Azar, a case brought in February by Texas and 19 other Republican-led states.

Republicans on Capitol Hill had no advance warning that the administration was going to assert that protections for people with preexisting conditions is unconstitutional - a position that defies President Donald Trump's promises to maintain those protections.

"I'm running for Congress because a year ago, during the lead up to my son's birth, our doctor told my wife and I that our son may not survive or have a serious health condition for the rest of his life", Kim said Friday.

In the court filing late Thursday, President Trump's administration said the department will no longer defend key parts of the ACA - also known as Obamacare - including the requirement that people have health insurance and provisions that guarantee access to health insurance regardless of any medical conditions, drawing a dramatic reaction from Valley lawmakers.

"Insurance companies hate uncertainty, and when they face uncertainty, they tend to increase premiums and hedge their bets", said Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

Linda Muller, president and CEO of Cornerstone Healthcare, the mid-Hudson's largest low-income health provider, said it would be disastrous if "an entire class of individuals with pre-existing conditions are targeted" by a federal decision not to support them.

In other words, the ACA still says you have to have insurance.

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The long-shot lawsuit argues that because Republicans repealed the ACA's individual mandate penalty as part of their tax overhaul, all of the remaining law is unconstitutional. 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. Slavitt and others criticized the move as an unprecedented decision by the Justice Department to not defend the rule of law. It is certainly clear that in zeroing out the individual mandate penalty in 2017, Congress did not mean to bar people with preexisting conditions from insurance.

"Just read the brief of the states that intervened to defend the law".

The Justice Department legal position nevertheless signals a remarkable willingness by the Trump administration to abandon landmark consumer protections in the health care law that for the first time prohibit health insurers from turning away sick consumers.

For years Democrats ran from the health-care issue as though it were a heap of flaming rubble, which, politically speaking, it was.

If the court takes that action, "the ACA's provisions containing the individual mandate as well as the guaranteed-issue and community-rating requirements will all be invalid beginning on January 1, 2019", the department lawyers write in a memorandum addressed to the court. "The Trump Administration is perpetuating the same cruel vision of higher costs and less coverage that House Republicans voted for in the monstrosity of Trumpcare". It will lead to "renewed uncertainty in the individual market" and a "patchwork of requirements in the states" and make it more challenging to offer coverage next year.

"It's highly unlikely NY would take away consumer protections it has put in place", said a spokeswoman for the state Health Plan Association.

According to health-policy experts, a court ruling in favor of the suing GOP states and the administration would trigger what one called "immediate chaos" in the law's insurance marketplaces created under the law.

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 it seems less worrisome than the possibility that courts, including the Supreme Court, might actually adopt the Trump administration's view and strike down the ACA provisions on pre-existing conditions.

These two provisions, along with rules that allow children to stay on their parents' health plan until they are 26 years old, have proven popular with Americans.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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