Trump Sides With Texas, Won't Defend Obamacare in Court

Justice Department says heart of Obama Care unconstitutional

The Trump administration said in a court filing late Thursday that it will no longer defend key parts of the Affordable Care Act, including the requirement that people have health insurance and provisions that guarantee access to health insurance regardless of any medical conditions. Instead, Justice officials argue in their brief that the ACA's insurance requirement will not become unconstitutional until January, so that "the injury imposed by the individual mandate is not sufficiently imminent" and that the judge could issue a final ruling in the case before then.

On Thursday night, the DOJ declined to defend ObamaCare against a lawsuit filed by Texas and 19 other GOP-led states, arguing that the law is unconstitutional.

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. For instance, it did not go after the creation of health insurance marketplaces, premium subsidies for low-income members and Medicaid expansion.

However, the Trump administration believes the provision of the ACA guaranteeing affordable rates to those with pre-existing conditions must be thrown out with the individual mandate. In this case, California is leading a group of Democrat-led states in defending the law.

Timothy Jost, law professor emeritus at Washington and Lee University in Virginia said the Trump administration is trying to persuade the court to do what it was unable to achieve in Congress previous year - essentially, repeal key parts of the Obama health law. However, he said, Bailey opposes the individual mandate and wants less government regulation of health insurance.

What are the ramifications of the Trump administration making these arguments?

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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". Legal experts are also skeptical the case will prevail and say it will take many months for a decision in the case, and the lawsuit could play out for years because of appeals.

"It would be essentially a return to what the individual market looked like before the ACA, where insurers would require applicants to fill out long questionnaires about their medical histories, and make decisions based on people's health and how much to charge", said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

What they did: The Department of Justice filed a brief Thursday in support of the suit, saying "this Court should hold that the ACA's individual mandate will be unconstitutional as of January 1, 2019", and that some other provisions of the law - including those protecting people with pre-existing conditions being denied coverage or charged higher premiums - are inseparable from the mandate and therefore should be declared unconstitutional as well.

The takeaway for consumers: This shouldn't deter people from seeking health insurance.

Many advocates spoke out against the Trump administration's stance on the law's consumer protections.

More recently, the White House and Department of Health and Human Services have been working to make it easier for consumers to buy relatively cheap health plans that exclude some of the benefits the ACA requires.

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