June 11, 2018
One of the great advantages of Obamacare was that it enabled Americans with “pre-existing medical conditions”—from diabetes, to heart failure to cancer—to get coverage from insurance providers. Now, Politico reports, the Trump administration “is urging a federal court to dismantle” this provision—but to wait until after the midterm elections this year.
What’s more, the administration would like to see the very basis of the Affordable Care Act—the mandate for every U.S. citizen to get coverage—taken out of the bill as soon as December.
Both moves come in response to a lawsuit from conservative states seeking to entirely invalidate the act. Indeed, On June 7, the Justice Department told a judge in Texas who will rule on the case that Congress’ decision to repeal the penalty for failing to buy health insurance renders unconstitutional other Obamacare language banning insurers from charging people more or denying them coverage based on a pre-existing condition.
According to the Politico story, the Texas-led lawsuit— filed last February—claims that the recent elimination of Obamacare’s individual mandate penalty means that the whole healthcare law should now be ruled invalid. The mandate penalty was wiped out, effective as of 2019, as part of the GOP tax law passed late last year.
The administration’s evening filing says it agrees with states bringing the suit that the individual mandate is unconstitutional, as are two of the law’s major insurance provisions meant to protect people with expensive medical conditions. With the filing, the Trump administration is asking the courts to wipe out protections that many congressional Republicans were wary of eliminating in their failed efforts to repeal Obamacare.
And they are right to worry: Findings of a Monmouth University poll, released in March, show that 51% of Americans would prefer to keep the Affordable Care Act and work to improve it, with another 7% saying that they want to keep the ACA entirely intact. Just four out of ten U.S. voters wants to see the act repealed, either with a replacement put in place (31%) or without one (8%).
The poll established that a majority support Obamacare, regardless of whether they get their coverage through an employer (57%), through a privately purchased plan (55%) or through publicly funded coverage (63%).
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, acknowledged that the executive branch typically defends existing federal law, but he said this was a “rare case where the proper course” is to forgo defense of the individual mandate.
The administration’s decision means that a group of 15 Democratic states led by California will be largely responsible for defending Obamacare against its latest legal threat, Politico said.
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