Thursday, 21 June, 2018

Justice Dept. Declines to Defend Some Key ACA Provisions

The Trump administration is calling a key part of Obamacare that protects individuals with pre-existing conditions unconstitutional The Trump Administration Is Using a New Tactic to Dismantle Obamacare. What You Need to Know About It
Ben Pena | 11 June, 2018, 14:50

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.

Reyes said Friday that "the individual mandate can not be severed" from the parts of the Affordable Care Act that prohibit insurers from increasing a person's premium rates or denying them coverage based on their health history.

The February lawsuit brought in the U.S. District Court by Texas and 19 other states argues that the ACA is unconstitutional and should be overturned because the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which passed in December removed tax penalties against individuals who choose not to get insurance.

Democrats don't mind this comparison, in part because polls have shown that not only is health care a top issue for many voters, but it's an issue that helps Democrats.

House Republicans said Friday they aren't sweating the Trump administration's refusal to defend Obamacare against a lawsuit that could nix popular health care protections, saying the case is in its infancy and they acquitted themselves by offering an alternative health plan past year. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of ME, previously helped tank Republicans' efforts to repeal and replace the ACA citing their concerns over the possible elimination of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. If you didn't know better, you'd think that today's Republican Party is doing just that on the issue of health care, in the service of exactly the kind of big-government universal program they claim to despise.

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. Without that form of tax, the new Administration document noted, the ACA mandate to buy insurance would be unconstitutional as beyond Congress's power to regulate interstate commercial activity.

One wrinkle that could keep the case alive, even if the states that oppose the ACA and the Trump administration want to resolve the case in favor of Texas and its allies, is that California, New York and other states that support the ACA have asked to intervene. In that case, the Supreme Court held up the individual mandate as constitutional only because it could be construed as a tax that raised revenue for the government. "It's not uncommon to make this kind of switch", a department spokesperson said Thursday night.

Expansions to Medicaid that occurred in individual states prior to the Affordable Care Act were excluded from the review analysis. The DOJ in fact sided in large part with the states, arguing that the law's protections for people with pre-existing conditions should be invalidated.

While Justice Department attorneys often advocate for laws they may personally disagree with, those three civil servants instead chose to exit from the case, which Bagley described as "almost unheard of". It will add fuel to Democrats' efforts to make health care a campaign issue in the mid-term elections.

The Trump administration said Thursday that it will not defend portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in a challenge by 20 states.

Asia Argento 'beyond devastated' after Anthony Bourdain's death
In 2016, Bourdain spoke with CBS News' Anthony Mason. "And not many big chefs have an ego that allows them to do that but he did". Eric and La Chambard hotel staff went to his room and unlocked the door to find the chef "unresponsive", as CNN reported.

Indeed, people who pay the full cost of their individual health plans and aren't eligible for subsidies under the health law have been clamoring for relief from several years of double-digit premium increases.

Nevertheless, the Justice Department's position did not go quite as far as the Texas suit.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who voted against the Republican repeal bills in the Senate previous year, also expressed concern about the administration's new push, saying it "creates further uncertainty that could ultimately result in higher costs for millions of Americans and undermine essential protections for people with pre-existing conditions, such as asthma, cancer, heart disease, arthritis and diabetes".

Among them is Andy Kim, a former Obama administration national security aide who is running to unseat New Jersey Republican Representative Tom MacArthur, sponsor of an amendment to the GOP's 2017 Obamacare repeal that allowed states to seek waivers to charge higher premiums to people with preexisting conditions.

The 20 states that brought the lawsuit include Texas, Wisconsin, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Gov. Paul LePage for the State of ME and Gov. Phil Bryant for Mississippi.

Typically, the department defends federal laws in court.

But the administration disagrees with that position. These are lawyers who have made arguments they personally disagreed with countless times.

Just hours before the Justice Department officially withdrew from the case, three of the staff attorneys who had been working on it withdrew. "Both sides, Democrats and Republicans, are using the people as political pawns".

Because the lawsuit could easily go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, a process that could take years, the protections for people with preexisting conditions are likely to stay in place during that period.

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