Justice Department move on health law has risks for GOP

Rep. Richard Neal D-Springfield listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with members of the House Ways and Means committee at the White House

In a federal court case filed by Texas and 19 other states against the ACA, the Justice Department filed a brief on Thursday that dubbed unconstitutional the Obamacare requirement for all Americans to have insurance.

Becerras pledge came in response to an announcement from the administration Thursday that it would not defend key parts of the Affordable Care Act in court.

Most of the discussion of the Trump administration's decision not to defend the Affordable Care Act - and to urge the courts to throw out its protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions - has focused on what happens to the individual insurance market.

Americans are very divided over the Affordable Care Act, but one piece that many support is the law's protections for those with pre-existing conditions. "At the worst it could strip away guaranteed coverage for those with pre-existing conditions". Health insurers are now deciding whether to sell coverage in the individual market in 2019 - and what they're going to charge. They say the rest of the law is not able to be separated from the mandate, and therefore should also be overturned. But it did say that the ACA provisions on pre-existing conditions are so linked to the individual mandate that it should now be struck down.

Led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, the lawsuit said that without the individual mandate, Obamacare in its entirety was unlawful.

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.

Republican Leonard Lance of New Jersey said the Justice Department should back off its effort, and said that if courts did rule against preexisting protections then Congress should act.

The 2010 law, passed by a Democratic Congress and a signature domestic accomplishment of President Barack Obama, created insurance "exchanges" in every state to sell federally subsidized coverage to individuals who do not have access to affordable health benefits through a job. In the new suit, California is leading a group of Democrat-led states in defending the law.

"In other words, people can once again be denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions or be charged more", Jost said. "We implore you to listen to the voices of career Justice Department lawyers, as well as concerned families, patients, doctors and hospitals that want to retain these protections, and start working with Democrats to strengthen our health care system instead of trying to tear it down", the senators said in their letter to Trump. John McCain's dramatic "thumbs down" vote last July, the Trump administration has taken other steps that Obamacare advocates say weaken the law.

For years Democrats ran from the health-care issue as though it were a heap of flaming rubble, which, politically speaking, it was.

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Though the lawsuit has a long path before it, Democrats and their allies are seizing on the administration's stance as a ready-made attack line as they try to retake the House in November. That will leave sicker people buying insurance.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage signed his name onto the 20-state lawsuit as one of the plaintiffs in the case that, if successful, would gut pre-existing condition protections enshrined in the Affordable Care Act.

Rep. Tom MacArthur, New Jersey Republican, included a provision in the House bill that would have required insurers to cover sicker Americans but allowed states to waive the prohibition on charging them higher premiums.

The Trump administration's stance is a rare departure from the Justice Department's practice of defending federal laws in court.

Becerra accused the administration of going “AWOL.” It “has chose to abandon the hundreds of millions of people who depend on” the law, he said in an interview with Kaiser Health News.

Legal specialists also point out that the Trump administration's failure to defend the federal health law could have long-lasting implications for the rule of law in the nation.

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.

"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.

More immediately, there might be some effect on premiums for next year.

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