Justice Department takes aim at heart of health law

Justice Department takes aim at heart of health law

Collins slammed the administration's decision in a statement provided to ABC News.

The lawsuit could easily go all the way to the Supreme Court before there is a resolution, which could take years.

In February, 20 states filed a lawsuit seeking the end of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. A central rule of ACA health plans is that they must welcome all customers, healthy and sick, and not charge higher premiums to those with preexisting conditions.

But Justice Department lawyers do argue that with no penalty for not having coverage, the federal government can not make health insurers cover sick consumers or prohibit insurers from charging sick consumers higher premiums, as was routinely done before the health care law was implemented.

As the Cuomo administration frequently points out, the state's uninsured rate has fallen to below 5%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and insurance can be purchased for less than half its price in 2013 before the ACA was implemented.

Asked about the Justice Department move, Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, spoke instead about the Democrats.

The Affordable Care Act has already survived several court challenges, and this latest test of its durability could take months or years to go through the legal system. HHS and Treasury administer the health law's coverage and subsidies.

Recent polling has found that health care is a crucial issue for voters this year.

The Justice Department said that also nullifies two other major provisions of Obamacare linked to the individual mandate, including one barring insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. The administration decided its "dislike for the Affordable Care Act outweighed its respect for the rule of law".

"We did that before with our repeal-and-replace bill". On Friday, Democratic members of the House of Representatives were furious.

According to health-policy experts, a court ruling in favor of the suing GOP states and the administration would trigger what one called "immediate chaos" in the law's insurance marketplaces created under the law.

Republicans have tried to blunt this tactic with a revival of what launched them into power in 2010: By arguing Democrats are hellbent on taking over all aspects of the health care system. For example, the Obama administration refused in 2011 to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which blocked federal recognition of same-sex marriages in some states.

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The filing declares unconstitutional the so-called individual mandate-which requires nearly all Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a "tax" if they don't-and calls for several elements of ACA to be invalidated. Rather, in the brief, the Justice Department says that only the section of the law dealing with the individual mandate is unconstitutional.

"Zeroing out the individual mandate penalty should not result in striking important consumer protections", America's Health Insurance Plans said in a statement.

The Trump administration's move drew strong criticism from defenders of the health care law and some legal scholars, who noted how unusual it is for the Justice Department not to defend federal law.

If the administration prevails in the case, the full force of the decision would not hit until after the midterm elections on November 6. Health insurers are now deciding whether to sell coverage in the individual market in 2019 - and what they're going to charge.

"The American public widely supports retaining protections for pre-existing conditions".

"The goal of Texas' lawsuit is to leave Americans without health insurance, forcing them to choose between their health and other needs", says California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Those two were so closely tied to the insurance-buying mandate that they would not work in the health insurance market without the guaranteed pool of insured people that the mandate was designed to create, Administration lawyers contended.

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. In the new suit, California is leading a group of Democrat-led states in defending the law.

"I've long held a position that the federal government should get completely out of the health insurance business", he said. "This is a sad moment".

"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". If the Justice Department's analysis is ultimately persuasive, however, other parts of the law, including Medicaid expansion, could stay in place. That's not exactly what the attorneys general were arguing, but that's what the Justice Department position is.

In May, the court allowed more than a dozen state attorneys general, all Democrats, to "intervene" in the case and defend the law. "Such withdrawals are exceedingly rare - typically only when the argument is indefensible, as they are here".

The Trump administration's decision to stop defending in court the Obama health law's popular protections for consumers with pre-existing conditions could prove risky for Republicans in the midterm elections - and nudge premiums even higher.

For years Democrats ran from the health-care issue as though it were a heap of flaming rubble, which, politically speaking, it was.

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