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Trump's Midterm Gift To Dems: A War On Pre-Existing Condition Protections

10 June 2018

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.

The brief was filed in Texas v. Azar, a case brought in February by Texas and 19 other Republican-led states.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a letter to House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, said he had determined the individual mandate will be unconstitutional when the tax law becomes effective in 2019.

What it means: If successful, the states' lawsuit would allow insurers to charge much higher rates to people with pre-existing conditions, or deny them coverage altogether, effectively ending the ACA's promise of providing health care for all Americans. Moreover, Congress had no intention of repealing the rest of the law when it eliminated the individual mandate in 2017.

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On April 26, 2018, the plaintiff states, joined by two individual plaintiffs, asked the court to enter a preliminary injunction invalidating the law.

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

President Trump has long declared the ACA, also known as Obamacare, to be a "disaster", and the brief filed Thursday night is the latest attempt by his administration to weaken former president Barack Obama's signature health-care law. "That change eliminated the basis for the court's decision to uphold the ACA's constitutionality". Insurers say the individual health insurance market is more stable than people might think.

Nevertheless, the Justice Department's position did not go quite as far as the Texas suit. "The Trump Administration is perpetuating the same cruel vision of higher costs and less coverage that House Republicans voted for in the monstrosity of Trumpcare".

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

These consumer protections proved enormously popular with Americans and are among the reasons why efforts to repeal Obamacare in Congress failed previous year. Previously, insurers could deny or restrict applicants' coverage based on their medical history, or carriers could charge higher premiums or offer only skimpy benefits to those who are or were sick. "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", they said in a joint statement.

"The decision by the Department of Justice to abandon critical patient protections is devastating for the millions of Americans who suffer from serious illnesses or have preexisting conditions and rely on those protections under current law to obtain life-saving health care", wrote a coalition of patient advocacy groups, including the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association.

Democrats are seeking to tie the move into their argument that the Trump administration is "sabotaging" health care and driving up premiums, a key midterm message.

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

Trump's Midterm Gift To Dems: A War On Pre-Existing Condition Protections