DOJ Won't Defend Obamacare in Lawsuit Brought by 20 States

Trump justice department will stop defending key parts of Obamacare

The Trump administration delivered an early midterms present to Democrats Thursday night when the Justice Department chose to side with 20 GOP states in a lawsuit seeking to gut the core protections of the Affordable Care Act for people with pre-existing conditions.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a Thursday letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, said while the administration has traditionally defended the constitutionality of such provisions, he has decided "this is a rare care where the proper course is to forgo defense". For instance, it did not go after the creation of health insurance marketplaces, premium subsidies for low-income members and Medicaid expansion.

The Justice Department rarely declines to argue in favor of existing law in court and this decision will put pressure on the Affordable Care Act, the formal name for former President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement.

In a brief filed in a federal court in Texas, the department said a tax law signed a year ago by President Donald Trump that eliminated penalties for not having health insurance rendered the so-called individual mandate under Obamacare unconstitutional.

In many ways, the lawsuit, filed in February, is a replay of the politically divided litigation that ended with the USA supreme court upholding the healthcare overhaul in 2012. In the new suit, California is leading a group of Democrat-led states in defending the law.

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The major difference is that the justice department, under Donald Trump, has largely switched sides.

The states argue that because Congress recently repealed a provision that people without health insurance must pay a fine, the requirement to have health insurance is unconstitutional because it is no longer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

The states also called for the entire law and all of its mandates to be eliminated, while the Justice Department argued some portions of the law could remain in place.

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".


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