Wednesday, 17 October, 2018

GOP risks fallout from Justice Department move on health law

Obamacare Screnshot of the
Becky Salazar | 11 June, 2018, 16:28

The Trump administration, in a late-Thursday court filing, stated that it would no longer defend provisions of the health care law, known as Obamacare, that require people to have health insurance and guarantee access to health insurance regardless of any medical conditions, the Associated Press reported.

One Utah health advocacy group warned Friday that the move could have negative financial consequences for hundreds of thousands of Utahns with pre-existing health conditions. "A compelling defense of the law is right there in black and white", Verrilli said in a statement.

"The DOJ has now acknowledged the problems with the statute".

Many Democrats said health care is the GOP's greatest political vulnerability in the November congressional elections and by siding with Texas in the court case Thursday night, President Donald Trump's Justice Department poured gasoline on already burning fire. Texas and other Republican-led states, including Utah, sued in February to strike down the entire law because Congress recently repealed a provision that people without health insurance must pay a fine. "The brief filed by the Trump Administration yesterday represents a shocking break from precedent and relies on legally dubious, partisan claims to argue against the constitutionality of the current law".

The Trump administration Thursday did not go that far.

Some 70 percent of folks said the federal government should continue prohibiting insurers from charging more to those with pre-existing conditions, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll from June 2017. It also agrees that the ACA's provisions affecting Medicaid, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Part D should remain law.

The Justice Department has opted not to defend existing law in the courts in other matters.

Congress a year ago struck down only the tax penalty enforcing the individual-insurance mandate, and left the rest of the law intact. The so-called individual insurance mandate is beyond Congress's power, the new filing argued, now that Congress has eliminated the financial penalty. "United States are correct that Section 5000A (a) [the individual mandate] will be unconstitutional when the Jobs Act's amendment becomes effective in 2019". It said in a brief that the Affordable Care Act's rules barring insurers from denying coverage or charging different rates based on a person's medical history should no longer be enforced because they were created to work alongside the individual mandate.

"Because the mandate is unconstitutional, those. elements must fail as well", he said.

Becerra estimated that the states that back the health care law could lose half a trillion dollars in health care funding if the suit is successful.

"In light of yesterday's news that the Justice Department will no longer be defending the Affordable Care Act, a reminder: the ACA isn't collapsing".

"However, it's not surprising they've chosen not to, because of (their) consistent efforts.to undermine the ACA", Stanford told the Deseret News.

The provisions DOJ says should be invalidated are central to the ACA and would gut protections for those with pre-existing conditions. However, if the judge buys the government's argument and his ruling is upheld on appeal, "52 million Americans with preexisting conditions could face denial of coverage or higher premiums". Estimates vary widely because there is not a standard definition of what counts as a pre-existing condition.

"The more uncertainty there is, the more the actuaries are going to be plugging into their projections for premium rates", says Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute. "It suggests that future administrations can pick and choose which laws they're going to enforce", he said.

Mark Showalter, chairman of the Department of Economics at BYU, contended that although protections for people with pre-existing conditions is a well-liked part of the law and the individual mandate penalty was considered deeply unpopular, the provisions are two sides of the same coin. These are lawyers who have made arguments they personally disagreed with countless times. "But to have one without the other doesn't make any sense".

The mandate in Obamacare was meant to ensure a viable health insurance market by forcing younger and healthier Americans to buy coverage.

Senior House Democrats on health care committees called the administration's refusal to defend the federal health law a "stunning attack on the rule of law".

"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", said America's Health Insurance Plans, one of the industry's main lobbying groups.

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