Justice Dept. Says Crucial Provisions of Obamacare Are Unconstitutional

Justice Dept. Says Crucial Provisions of Obamacare Are Unconstitutional

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.

SIMON: And let's start with the question of the individual mandate. The rest of the ACA can function without the mandate, the brief says, and should be retained. It helped expand their risk pools while the law forced them to guarantee coverage to any customer.

According to healthcare.gov, a pre-existing condition is a health problem a person has before enrolling in a new health care plan.

Becerra's 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.

The long-shot lawsuit argues that because Republicans repealed the ACA's individual mandate penalty as part of their tax overhaul, all of the remaining law is unconstitutional. It is certainly clear that in zeroing out the individual mandate penalty in 2017, Congress did not mean to bar people with preexisting conditions from insurance. The court ruled that the individual mandate was unconstitutional under Congress's Commerce Clause power as Congress can not compel individuals to participate in an area of commerce.

In court papers, lawyers for Texas asked a Texas judge to hold that the ACA is unlawful and enjoin its operation. And insurance companies could cancel coverage for people who became ill once the policy year ended.

Epilepsy, cancer, diabetes, lupus, sleep apnea, and pregnancy are all examples of pre-existing conditions.

The same report estimates 391,000 Utahns have pre-existing conditions that could affect their coverage eligibility.

More than one in four adults younger than 65 have pre-existing medical conditions, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Of course, not all of them buy coverage on their own. So they're saying that when the mandate penalty goes away next January, the protections for preexisting conditions should go away as well. What about next year?

The provisions DOJ says should be invalidated are central to the ACA and would gut protections for those with pre-existing conditions. And for those reasons, premiums are going up more next year than they would have otherwise.

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"Democrats destroyed the health care system as we knew when they rammed Obamacare down our throats", he said in an email, "and now all they can talk about is moving to a single-payer health care system".

But others say the legal brief may have minimal impact next year on premiums.

The administration said it agrees with Texas. So they have to raise premiums. Those include Congress' decision to repeal the individual mandate penalty and rules expected soon from the administration that will expand the market for lower cost and short-term policies that won't have to follow all the ACA rules. Without it, all of the ACA's regulations should be invalid, they said, citing a 2012 Supreme Court ruling.

Q: What did Congress do to start this latest round of court action?

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. 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.

Other legal observers point out that's not how the lawmaking process works.

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. "That's what Congress did when it zeroed out the mandate. Congress made that choice". "The Department will not defend the constitutionality" of the Affordable Care Act.

Those with pre-existing conditions should continue being guaranteed coverage at affordable rates, said Orange County Legislator James O'Donnell, the Republican candidate for U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney's 18th District seat. Even if the lawsuit stands little chance of success, putting those provisions back in play can create uncertainty for insurers and patients this summer and fall. "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".

This is a huge deal... the administration's behavior sets a unsafe precedent about the obligation of this and future presidents to follow their constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws enacted by Congress....

SIMON: Julie Rovner, chief Washington, DC, correspondent for Kaiser Health News.

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