Trump's Midterm Gift To Dems: A War On Pre-Existing Condition Protections


U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, and other House Democrats condemned the Trump administration Friday after the Justice Department announced it would not defend key provisions of the Affordable Care Act. "A compelling defense of the law is right there in black and white", Verrilli said in a statement. That's because insurers already expected the Trump administration would not defend the ACA - and they know that a resolution of the case will be years away, says industry consultant Robert Laszewski. Tellingly, three career Justice Department attorneys withdrew from representing the United States immediately before filing the brief, apparently unwilling to sign their names to a legally questionable brief.

Several other provisions of the law, however, are severable and can still be enforced, the Justice Department said. Without the tax, Texas' says, the rest of the law falls.

The Senate's top Democrats fired off a letter to President Trump on Friday to denounce the decision and urged Trump's Justice Department to reverse course.

"I concur in the Department's prior determination", Sessions said.

The president previous year issued an executive order directing federal agencies to make it easier to buy two alternatives to Affordable Care Act plans.

The overall ACA and the state-run marketplaces where subsidized health insurance is sold have continued to operate in the six years since the Supreme Court had upheld the individual-insurance mandate, but have often had difficulty holding down insurance premiums and have had a steady erosion of the number of insurance companies willing to continue to sell policies on those exchanges, even with subsidies that help them offset the cost of keeping premiums down. The states argue that, because the TCJA has eliminated the individual mandate penalty, the ACA individual mandate is no longer a tax law.

The attorneys general argue that a Supreme Court decision in 2012 saved the ACA from being declared an unconstitutional overreach of congressional power by declaring the penalty a tax - and pointing out that Congress has the power to levy taxes.

Though Republicans loathe the 2010 law, many of them have pushed for market-oriented solutions that allow sicker Americans to obtain insurance without facing sky-high prices.

On June 7, California and the other states with Democratic attorneys general filed their response to the preliminary injunction motion.

The Democrats further raised concerns that even if the Justice Department's arguments are unsuccessful, the administration's move could still "raise the cost of health care for most Americans, undermine the economy and weaken our democracy for years to come".

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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. And for those reasons, premiums are going up more next year than they would have otherwise.

Q: Who will defend the law now?

The administration called on the court to declare that the provisions that guarantee coverage will be "invalid beginning on January 1, 2019", when the mandate penalty goes away. The Kaiser Family Foundation puts the number at about a quarter of the country's under-65 population.

O'Connor issued an order on May 16 that grants California and other states that support the ACA official intervenor status. And the Justice Department says it agrees with those states, and it will not defend some of the key remaining provisions in the law.

The Texas case provides more uncertainty for state health insurers who already submitted their requested premium increases for 2019 for state review.

If the judge buys the administration's argument, and if his ruling is upheld on appeal, 52 million Americans with preexisting conditions could face denial of coverage or higher premiums.

Also, 39 percent of registered voters in today's NBC/WSJ said they are enthusiastic or comfortable with a candidate seeking to repeal Obamacare, compared to 49 percent who said they have reservations or were very uncomfortable with a candidate seeking to repeal the health care law.

More recently, the administration also sought to loosen rules on short-term health insurance plans that are less expensive but don't carry the same consumer protections as Obamacare plans.

If the judge agrees, "insurers would want to discontinue" health plans that treat healthy and sick customers the same, predicted Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Bagley said, "That's nearly unheard of". The mandate may have been thought been necessary to make those provisions work in practice, but it turns out that, so far at least, they are operating without it, and the death spiral hasn't happened.