The U.S. Justice Department has told a Texas federal court that it won't defend provisions in the Affordable Care Act that ban insurers from refusing to cover people with pre-existing conditions and from charging them more money. It said in a brief that the Affordable Care Act's rules barring insurers from denying coverage or charging different rates based on a person's medical history should no longer be enforced because they were created to work alongside the individual mandate.
But some GOP lawmakers and political operatives sounded warnings on Friday about the impact of the Justice Department's decision to side with Texas and other states in a lawsuit alleging that because Congress nullified the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate penalty, the rest of the law is invalid.
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.
They further cast the administration's brief, which was filed in federal court Thursday, as an "attack" on both the rule of law and the stability of the United States' health care system.
Last year, the House passed an Obamacare replacement but the Senate failed to pass its own, after three Republicans voted with Democrats to kill a bill that leveraged special budget rules to avoid a filibuster.
Republicans in Congress have tried endlessly to the repeal the Affordable Care Act since it was signed into law in 2010 by President Barack Obama.
Becerra is leading an effort by Democratic attorney generals from others states and the District of Columbia to defend the ACA against that lawsuit.
Once the heart of the ACA - the individual mandate - is declared unconstitutional, the remainder of the ACA must also fall... without any accompanying exercise of Congress's taxing power, which the Supreme Court already held that Congress has no authority to enact.
The administration said it agrees with Texas. Those two were so closely tied to the insurance-buying mandate that they would not work in the health insurance market without the guaranteed pool of insured people that the mandate was designed to create, Administration lawyers contended. "No matter what Washington spin Bob Casey puts on it, the fact remains access to care got worse and costs skyrocketed early in the Obama Administration due to the disastrous law Casey supported".
A Trump administration decision not to defend key parts of the Affordable Care Act in a lawsuit seeking to dismantle it could cause chaos and deprive Americans of coverage, local politicians, providers and insurers said on Friday.
The Department of Justice said it agrees with Texas that the so-called individual mandate will be unconstitutional without the fine.
Regardless of the federal court's ruling-which observers said may come by late summer or early fall-New York state law now protects consumers from such actions by insurers.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who voted against the Republican repeal bills in the Senate a year ago, 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".
Meanwhile, California and several other states filed a motion to intervene to defend the law. However, if the judge buys the government's argument and his ruling is upheld on appeal, "52 million Americans with preexisting conditions could face denial of coverage or higher premiums".
Many health care experts disagree with that position.
Lederman also wrote that attorneys from the federal programs section of the department's Civil Division often make "very aggressive and unlikely-to-prevail arguments in defense of federal programs and statutes" and that the division is not "timid".
Sessions said he agreed with the plaintiffs that without the mandate, the decision in the 2012 National Federation of Independent Business vs. former Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sebelius, is the proper course.
If Democrats don't repeat that sentence a thousand times a day between now and November, they're nuts.
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.
Republicans on Capitol Hill had no advance warning that the administration was going to assert that protections for people with preexisting conditions is unconstitutional - a position that defies President Donald Trump's promises to maintain those protections. He added that lawyers can request to be reassigned from a particular case when they have moral or other "serious qualms" about the government's actions, but they "rarely" seek the court's permission to withdraw.
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