Trump Administration Moves To Further Hobble Affordable Care Act

Justice Department says heart of health law unconstitutional

Collins slammed the administration's decision in a statement provided to ABC News.

By Friday morning, Democratic congressional candidates were jumping on the news as well, blasting out statements slamming the administration and vowing to fight to preserve the ACA's consumer protections. That will leave sicker people buying insurance.

"If the Trump administration is successful in arguing against the constitutionality of protecting patients' access to care, it will have immediate and disastrous effect on our health care system and the American people", the lawmakers say.

"The more uncertainty there is, the more the actuaries are going to be plugging into their projections for premium rates", says Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute.

The Affordable Care Act has already survived several court challenges, and this latest test of its durability could take months or years to go through the legal system.

The 20 states filed [JURIST report] their lawsuit in February, relying on the Supreme Court precedent in NFIB v. Sebelius [JURIST report].

"I didn't vote for the health care bill", he said. "The pre-existing condition protections are extremely popular on both sides of the aisle".

These sections of the law, along with the mandate that insurers provide comprehensive coverage, are the bedrock of Obamacare's protections for those with pre-existing conditions. "The ACA is the law of the land and DOJ should defend it". Which will make it more likely that the Democrats will take back the House and/or the Senate.

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Supporters of the health care law expressed considerable alarm on Friday.

But that was not the talking point of the party's re-election arm.

After the latest attempt to repeal the health law failed with Arizona Sen.

The lawsuit argues that with the mandate to purchase insurance still technically in place, but the financial penalty for those who don't abide by it being removed beginning in 2020, Congress' taxing power no longer applies to the provision, leaving it unconstitutional. That ruling hinged on the reasoning that, while the government "does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance", as Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority, it "does have the power to impose a tax on those without health insurance". In the tax law, Congress repealed the penalty for people who fail to have health insurance starting in 2019. The states argue that after Congress eliminated the penalty for the individual mandate a year ago, effective in 2019, it destabilized other sections of the law.

The administration does not go as far as the Texas attorney general and his counterparts.

Stacy Stanford, policy analyst for the Utah Health Policy Project, a think tank and advocacy organization that is also a federal health exchange enrollment hub, said "the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and therefore the administration should be defending it".

"The question is, what does this do to insurance markets now?" said Jost. Estimates vary widely because there is not a standard definition of what counts as a pre-existing condition.

Many health care experts disagree with that position. Many of those provision can continue to work to help achieve the overall goal of the ACA, to assure that more Americans have health insurance, the filing asserted.

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California and 15 other states have intervened in the lawsuit, and Stanford said she has some optimism they will be able to successfully argue for pre-existing condition protections, even as the Department of Justice relinquishes that effort.

"I'm running for Congress because past year, during the lead up to my son's birth, our doctor told my wife and I that our son may not survive or have a serious health condition for the rest of his life", Kim said Friday. "This is a sad moment".

Just hours before the Justice Department officially withdrew from the case, three of the staff attorneys who had been working on it withdrew.

But the move also upends a longstanding legal and democratic norm that the executive branch will uphold existing laws.

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. "Such withdrawals are exceedingly rare - typically only when the argument is indefensible, as they are here".

But Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican, said it's not unprecedented for the Justice Department to refuse to defend a law it views as unconstitutional, so he doesn't see their decision as problematic.

If Democrats don't repeat that sentence a thousand times a day between now and November, they're nuts.

The Texas case will be decided first by O'Connor, a conservative appointee of President George W. Bush.

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The suit is being heard by Judge Reed O'Connell, who was appointed by President George W. Bush and has ruled against the ACA in other cases the past few years.

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