Justice Department move on health law has risks for GOP

The Trump administration is calling a key part of Obamacare that protects individuals with pre-existing conditions unconstitutional

That would immediately change if Judge Reed O'Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas agrees with the Justice Department argument that the mandates including protections for people with preexisting conditions will become unconstitutional in January, when new tax rules end existing penalties for people who flout the law's requirement to carry health insurance.

The decision, announced in a filing in a federal court in Texas, is a rare departure from the Justice Department's practice of defending federal laws in court. As a result, individuals with pre-existing conditions will face the possibility of being denied health care coverage as well as an increase to their premiums based on their health history.

If the judge agrees, "insurers would want to discontinue" health plans that treat healthy and sick customers the same, predicted Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Why they did it: Republicans have targeted the Affordable Care Act for elimination ever since it passed, and President Trump continues to promise that it will be overturned. "Congress needs to work in a bipartisan manner to develop a solution that covers pre-existing conditions and makes health care more affordable and accessible for every American".

Andy Kim, a former Obama administration staffer, is making coverage of pre-existing conditions and access to affordable health care a key part of his campaign against Rep. Tom MacArthur in Central New Jersey, the author of the Obamacare repeal bill that passed the House but failed in the Senate previous year.

"If the Justice Department can just throw in the towel whenever a law is challenged in court, it can effectively pick and choose which laws should remain on the books", wrote Bagley.

The Trump administration Thursday did not go that far. They included provisions establishing health insurance exchanges, expanding Medicaid coverage and subsidizing premiums for lower-income people.

That penalty, Texas and the other conservative states argue, is so central to the law that without it, the rest can not stand.

Sixteen states have intervened in the case to support the law.

The lawsuit argues that with the mandate to purchase insurance still technically in place, but the financial penalty for those who don't abide by it being removed beginning in 2020, Congress' taxing power no longer applies to the provision, leaving it unconstitutional.

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Crusading against the ACA has been a priority of President Donald Trump since his campaign for the White House.

The 20 states that brought the lawsuit include Texas, Wisconsin, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Gov. Paul LePage for the State of ME and Gov. Phil Bryant for Mississippi.

"At the very least it adds uncertainty at exactly the moment when plans are trying to set rates for next year", said Ceci Connolly, the chief executive of the Alliance of Community Health Plans. United States. Obama's last CMS administrator Andy Slavitt tweeted the following false claim: "The Trump DOJ tonight just told the courts to dismantle pre-existing conditions protections and other consumer protections".

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

A group of Democratic state attorneys general, lead by California's Xavier Becerra, are riding to the law's defense.

Bailey's spokesman Corey Uhden said Friday that he wouldn't comment on the constitutionality of the ACA provisions.

Three career lawyers in the department's civil division withdrew from the case earlier Thursday and did not sign the brief.

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.

"I find it impossible to believe that the many talented lawyers at the department could not come up with any arguments to defend the ACA's insurance market reforms, which have made such a difference to millions of Americans", Verrilli said. In their suit, lodged in February in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, they argue that the entire law is now invalid. "Removing those provisions will result in renewed uncertainty in the individual market, create a patchwork of requirements in the states, cause rates to go even higher for older Americans and sicker patients, and make it challenging to introduce products and rates for 2019", Matt Eyles, AHIP's president and CEO, said Friday in a statement. Whatever the lower courts decide, the case seems destined to reach the Supreme Court.

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