Justice Department says heart of Affordable Care Act unconstitutional

MIAMI FL- FEBRUARY 05 Ariel Fernandez sits with Noel Nogues an insurance advisor with Uni Vista Insurance company as he signs up for the Affordable Care Act also known as Obamacare before the February 15th deadline

These include a "ban on insurers denying coverage and charging higher rates to people with pre-existing health conditions".

Since Congress repealed the penalty for not having insurance in its tax reform package previous year, much of the rest of the insurance statute becomes unconstitutional in 2019 and must be "struck down", attorneys for the Justice Department said in a court filing Thursday.

The lawsuit led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, argued an earlier case against the ACA made it clear that tax penalty was an essential component of the law, and when the Supreme Court upheld the ACA the ruling stated "without the tax penalty, the mandate that individuals purchase health insurance was an unconstitutional exercise of federal power".

The states argue that because Congress recently repealed a provision that people without health insurance must pay a fine, the requirement to have health insurance is unconstitutional because it is no longer considered a tax.

The administration said it agrees with Texas that the so-called individual mandate will be unconstitutional without the fine.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. For instance, it did not go after the creation of health insurance marketplaces, premium subsidies for low-income members and Medicaid expansion. But under the GOP tax bill signed into law last December, tax penalties for people without insurance were eliminated.

The major difference is that the Justice Department under President Donald Trump has largely switched sides.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a letter to Congress on Thursday that Trump, who campaigned on repealing the law and almost did so his first year in office, approved the legal strategy.

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 a year ago - essentially, repeal key parts of the Obama health law.

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".

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.

Some experts have said that regardless of how the case is decided, insurers could raise premiums for next year due to the uncertainty the case is causing, a point echoed by the Democrats.

The mandate introduced with Obamacare, the popular name for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), was meant to ensure a viable health insurance market by forcing younger and healthier Americans to buy coverage.

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