Trump Administration Court Filing Threatens Coverage for Preexisting Conditions

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Just prior to the Trump administration's announcement that it would no longer defend key provisions of the Affordable Care Act in an ongoing case brought by Texas and other states, several career Justice Department attorneys withdrew from the case. The administration instead called on federal courts to scuttle the health laws protection for people with preexisting medical conditions and its requirement that people buy health coverage.

The Justice Department's decision not to defend parts of the Affordable Care Act is one of a number of shifts the department has taken to distance itself from the previous administration.

The Trump administration's move drew comparisons to the Obama administration's decision, in 2011, to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that barred federal recognition of same-sex unions that were lawful at the state level, and which the Supreme Court later struck down.

"The administration's attempt to eliminate protections for the 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions is just the latest - and potentially the most damaging - example of the coordinated effort by congressional Republicans and the Trump administration to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, driving up uninsured rates and out-of-pocket costs for Americans", the Democrats said.

On Thursday evening, the Trump administration submitted a legal filing saying it would not "defend the constitutionality" of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act in support of a lawsuit filed by Republican-led states filed a lawsuit earlier this year.

ROVNER: Well, one of the reasons it's happening - say the insurers, who are filing their rates now for next year - is because they took away this penalty for people who don't have insurance.

The federal courts have no power to strike down those other provisions, since they can be severed from the parts of the ACA that will fall when the tax penalty ends at the opening of next year, the government argued. "Zeroing out the individual mandate penalty should not result in striking important consumer protections, such as guaranteed issue and community rating rules that help those with pre-existing conditions".

SIMON: What other parts of the ACA does the Department of Justice single out in the lawsuit?

Many health care experts disagree with that position.

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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. But under the GOP tax bill signed into law last December, tax penalties for people without insurance were eliminated. In the new suit, California is leading a group of Democrat-led states in defending the law.

The provisions banning insurers from denying coverage or charging more based on medical condition or history can't be severed from the unconstitutional individual mandate, the brief says.

Yesterday, the Trump administration's Department of Justice dropped a bombshell in a rural Texas federal courthouse.

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

Recent polling indicates that this could be a political victor for Democrats attempting to recapture at least one chamber of Congress. "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". But Perry breaks with many fellow conservatives when it comes to helping those who can't afford insurance.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a letter to Congress that Trump, who campaigned on repealing the law and almost did so his first year in office, approved the legal strategy. First, if the administration's position prevails, millions of Americans will lose the protections they thought they had against being denied coverage if they suffer from preexisting conditions.

In parting company with the challenging states on their demand that all of the ACA be nullified, the Administration document said it was hypothetical speculation whether the entire program would collapse without the individual mandate and the related insurance coverage requirements.

Voters, both in interviews and a series of polls, have consistently said that health care is the issue they care the most about going into the midterm elections and Democratic candidates have responded by making it the cornerstone of their attacks on Republicans.

"Texans have known all along that Obamacare is unlawful and a divided Supreme Court's approval rested exclusively on the flimsy support of Congress's authority to tax", said Paxton when the suit was filed.