Published: Mon, June 11, 2018
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

AHIP, Others React to DOJ Move Against ACA in Texas

AHIP, Others React to DOJ Move Against ACA in Texas

The Trump administration delivered an early midterms present to Democrats Thursday night when the Justice Department chose to side with 20 GOP states in a lawsuit seeking to gut the core protections of the Affordable Care Act for people with pre-existing conditions.

The Justice Department argued the judge should strike down the section of the law that protects people buying insurance from being charged higher premiums due to their health history.

Since Congress repealed the penalty for not having insurance in its tax reform package past year, much of the rest of the insurance statute becomes unconstitutional in 2019 and must be "struck down", attorneys for the Justice Department said in a court filing Thursday.

These consumer protections proved enormously popular with Americans and are among the reasons why efforts to repeal Obamacare in Congress failed previous year.

And Tim Hogan, a spokesman for Health Care Voters, a Democratic group looking to mobilize voters on the health care issue, called the decision a "blatant sabotage of the Affordable Care Act" and "something Republican members of Congress will have to explain to their constituents".

But Bagley noted that the Trump administration "loathes the ACA" and the Obama administration's refusal to defend Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that defined marriage between a man and a woman back in 2011, sets precedent. In it, the states deem the entirety of Obamacare and its regulations invalid.

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".

Timothy Jost, law professor emeritus at Washington and Lee University in Virginia said the Trump administration is trying to persuade the court to do what it was unable to achieve in Congress past year - essentially, repeal key parts of the Obama health law.

The administration said it agrees with Texas. Slavitt and others criticized the move as an unprecedented decision by the Justice Department to not defend the rule of law.

Insurers have faced risks tied to the Trump administration's efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act since his election. Last October, the president unilaterally ended a significant part of the law that cushions insurers financially from an obligation to give discounts to decrease out-of-pocket costs to lower-income customers with ACA coverage.


O'Connor issued an order on May 16 that grants California and other states that support the ACA official intervenor status. And the Justice Department says it agrees with those states, and it will not defend some of the key remaining provisions in the law.

"Zeroing out the individual mandate penalty should not result in striking important consumer protections", America's Health Insurance Plans said in a statement.

"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.

For years, Republicans said they would protect people who suffer from preexisting conditions and were priced out of the individual market.

That's not so surprising considering more than 52 million non-elderly Americans have health conditions that could have rendered them uninsurable prior to Obamacare, a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis found.

Many health care experts disagree with that position.

The Washington Post reported that three career Justice attorneys involved in the case - Joel McElvain, Eric Beckenhauer and Rebecca Kopplin - withdrew before the filing at 6 p.m. Thursday, an unusual time for such an action. "This was often the case before the law took effect and would likely be the same should these essential protections be eliminated".

Supreme Court ruled that opponents of the ACA individual coverage mandate could not win a preliminary injunction blocking the mandate, because the ACA individual mandate was a tax, and a federal law prohibits parties from seeking preliminary injunctions to block new federal taxes.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., released a letter with other top Democratic senators demanding the administration reverse the move, while the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee wasted no time blasting out news releases questioning whether Republican candidates agreed with the administration. President Trump has said he wants a repeal and replacement of the law. As a result, the entire remainder of the ACA must be upheld, even if the court finds the mandate unconstitutional.

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