Justice Department won't defend Affordable Care Act provisions in court

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

Weighing in on a Texas challenge to the health law, the Justice Department argued that legally and practically the popular consumer protections can not be separated from the unpopular insurance mandate, which Congress has repealed, effective next year.

The DOJ claimed in court Thursday that the health care law's protections relating to pre-existing conditions are now improper, because the individual mandate was repealed.

"It's just one more part of the story of trying to politicize the Justice Department", said Jost, a supporter of the health law.

The US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, said in a letter to Congress on Thursday that Trump, who campaigned on repealing the law and almost did so his first year in office, approved the legal strategy. Andy Slavitt, who ran the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Obama, tweeted that the Justice Department's decision is the "biggest health care news of the year" and a blow to public health.

More than one in four adults younger than 65 have pre-existing medical conditions, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

"Justice Department attorneys don't withdraw from cases simply because the government is making an argument the lawyers think the courts should or would reject", he said.

The administration called on the court to declare the provisions that guarantee coverage to be invalid beginning on January 1, 2019, when the mandate penalty goes away.

Democrats around the country were already working hard on Friday to get that message across. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said in a statement. "But it's also political malpractice because you've handed us an issue we will ride into the sunset".

The shift to health care is a notable strategy by which Democrats are hoping to remind American voters that Republicans are "deliberately sabotaging" the health care system, as Schumer put it in a letter he wrote to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier in the week.

Privately, some Republicans involved with midterm races expressed frustration at the move. They routinely defend policies they dislike and make arguments they personally disagree with. "Preexisting conditions is something everyone agreed we should keep".

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But it's not clear exactly how many Americans have pre-existing conditions and could be affected.

But some moderate Republicans, including Sens. Health insurers are now deciding whether to sell coverage in the individual market in 2019 - and what they're going to charge. A definitive court ruling "could be months away" according to The New York Times, with appeals lasting many more. "Removing those provisions will result in renewed uncertainty in the individual market, create a patchwork of requirements in the states, cause rates to go even higher for older Americans and sicker patients, and make it challenging to introduce products and rates for 2019". But the lawsuit argues that since the mandate can no longer raise any revenue, the mandate itself is now unconstitutional - and so is the entire ACA.

Congressional Republicans, who unsuccessfully sought to undo President Barack Obama's signature health care law throughout 2017, added language to the GOP tax bill that ended the controversial tax penalty for those who fail to obtain health care coverage.

More immediately, there might be some effect on premiums for next year.

The president has backed new rules that would allow for an expansion of skimpier health plans that do not have to cover a full range of health benefits.

More recently, the White House and Department of Health and Human Services have been working to make it easier for consumers to buy relatively affordable health plans that exclude some of the benefits the ACA requires.

In the past, polls have found that both Republicans and Democrats favor protecting coverage for the tens of millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions. The subsidies for each region within a state are based on a "community rating", which, in turn, takes into account the cost of covering healthy and sick customers.

"This lawsuit is less about altering the law and more about blowing it up", Levitt said.

"With 130 million people who have a preexisting condition, there are a lot of people in swing districts waking up to the news today that Republicans are suing to try to let insurance companies discriminate against people with preexisting conditions", said Jesse Ferguson, former deputy director of the House Democrats' campaign arm.

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