Trump Administration Seeks to Gut Obamacare’s Protections for People With Pre-Existing Conditions

Justice Department says heart of Obama Care unconstitutional

Since Congress repealed the penalty for not having insurance in its tax reform package past year, much of the rest of the insurance statute becomes unconstitutional in 2019 and must be "struck down", attorneys for the Justice Department said in a court filing Thursday.

The Trump administration argues that because the new tax law eliminates the penalty for not buying insurance, the Supreme Court's previous ruling permitting the mandate as a tax no longer applies.

In a brief filed in a Texas federal court and an accompanying letter to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the Justice Department agrees in large part with the 20 Republican-led states who brought the suit.

The Department of Justice has said it will not legally defend the ACA's restriction on insurers asking about pre-existing health conditions as a determinant for whether to offer coverage and at what rates, saying it believes the provision is unconstitutional. But under the GOP tax bill signed into law last December, tax penalties for people without insurance were eliminated.

Removing consumer friendly provisions like guaranteed issue, whereby health insurers can not deny coverage to applicants or charge more based on health status, will result in renewed uncertainty in the market as well as push up rates for older and sicker patients, AHIP added. "It's important for consumers to know that the Affordable Care Act and the protections it ensures for their coverage are still the law, and they should continue to see their health providers and plan to shop for coverage this fall as they have any other year", says Imholz.

"Just read the brief of the states that intervened to defend the law". As a result, the entire remainder of the ACA must be upheld, even if the court finds the mandate unconstitutional.

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Loosening the health law's rules on pre-existing conditions and on charging more to older adults is a key goal for the Trump administration.

Insurers, meanwhile, warned that the administration's actions could rock the individual market and could lead to higher premiums, especially for those battling illnesses. The rest of the ACA can function without the mandate, the brief says, and should be retained. "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".

"It would be essentially a return to what the individual market looked like before the ACA, where insurers would require applicants to fill out long questionnaires about their medical histories, and make decisions based on people's health and how much to charge", said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. Legal experts are also skeptical the case will prevail and say it will take many months for a decision in the case, and the lawsuit could play out for years because of appeals.

The DOJ in fact sided in large part with the states, arguing that the law's protections for people with pre-existing conditions should be invalidated.

The takeaway for consumers: This shouldn't deter people from seeking health insurance.

Moreover, if the Trump administration did not want to defend the ACA expressly, it could simply have filed a jurisdictional motion, asserting that the states are not injured by the lack of an individual mandate penalty and that the litigation is not yet timely, as the tax is still in effect.

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