The Justice Department filed a brief on Monday announcing that President Donald Trump's administration will no longer defend any part of the Affordable Care Act, the landmark health care law colloquially known as Obamacare.
In the memo sent to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, DoJ wrote that it "has determined that the district court’s judgment should be affirmed." Justice is referring to a December court case in Texas in which a federal judge ruled the individual mandate along with the rest of the health care law to be unconstitutional. Democrats have appealed the ruling.
"Because the United States is not urging that any portion of the district court’s judgment be reversed," the memo states, "the government intends to file a brief on the appellees’ schedule."
This means the Trump administration now favors scrapping the entirety of Obamacare, putting the health insurance of 30 million Americans at risk - including those with pre-existing conditions, whose coverage Trump had promised to protect.
It is a stunning reversal of policy and a breach of one of Trump's biggest campaign promises.
Here are the most recent pledges from Trump on safeguarding coverage for those with pre-existing conditions:
Even in the wake of December's ruling, Trump vowed to keep this universally popular provision in place:
Trump said the same thing following the ill-fated repeal and replace fiasco in 2017 after the Republican-led Congress repealed the individual mandate as part of their tax cut bill.
On Tuesday, House Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA) unveiled a bill - Protecting Pre-existing Conditions & Making Health Care More Affordable Act of 2019 - containing several proposals aimed at expanding health care coverage and undoing some of the damage the Trump administration has done to the law.
Per Pelosi's office, the one-page bill
"Strengthens tax credits in the Marketplace to lower Americans’ health insurance premiums and
allows more middle-class individuals and families to qualify for subsidies"
"Ensures that families who don’t have an offer of affordable coverage from an employer can still
qualify for subsidies in the Marketplace"
"Provides funding for reinsurance, to help with high-cost claims, improve Marketplace stability, and
prevent the Trump Administration’s sabotage from raising premiums"
"Strengthens protections for people with pre-existing conditions"
"Curtails the Trump Administration’s efforts to give states waivers to undermine protections for
people with pre-existing conditions and weaken standards for essential health benefits, which
would leave consumers with less comprehensive plans that do not cover needed services, such as
prescription drugs, maternity care, and substance use disorder treatment"
"Stops insurance companies from selling junk health insurance plans"
"Stops the Trump Administration’s efforts to push Americans into junk health insurance plans that
do not provide coverage for essential medical treatments and drugs, and that are allowed to
discriminate against people with pre-existing medical conditions"
"Reverses the GOP’s health care sabotage that has needlessly driven up premiums and uninsured rates, and empowers states to innovate and invest in enrolling more people in affordable health coverage"
"Reverses the Trump Administration’s sabotage by requiring open enrollment outreach, education,
and funding for navigators"
"Invests in state efforts to conduct outreach to increase enrollment, educate consumers of their
rights, and help individuals navigate the health insurance system"
"Empowers states to implement new approaches to increasing enrollment and allows states to set
up their own Marketplaces"
"Holds the Administration accountable for its use of federal dollars dedicated to increasing
enrollment, outreach and running the federal exchange"
The bill also makes tax credits available to everyone and caps insurance premiums at 8.5 percent of income. These would be an enormous benefit to people who currently make too much money to qualify for subsidized plans, as well as people who are self-employed and unable to get coverage through their job.
"Currently, people making 150 percent of the federal poverty level ($18,000 for an individual, $31,000 for a family of three) have to pay up to 4 percent of their income on health insurance purchased through Obamacare. Under the Democratic bill, they would pay no more than 2 percent. For a family making 300 percent of the poverty level, they currently have to pay 10 percent of income on premiums; they’d have to pay no more than 7 percent under the Democratic proposal."
Given all this, what Trump told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday is remarkable. "The Republican Party will soon become the party of health care," he said.
Trump also made the same prediction on Twitter.
"The Republican Party will become 'The Party of Healthcare!'" he wrote.
Pretty amazing, considering that a) the Republicans in Congress voted to repeal Obamacare nearly 60 times, to no avail, and with no replacement plan; b) the Trump administration still has no alternative.
Further, Trump's latest budget proposal obliterates funding for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security - representing another broken promise.
The hypocrisy on display is... par for the course. The people are not buying it.
Democrats are not, however, putting forth legislation to advance Medicare-for-all or a Medicare buy-in program. At least, not yet.
“This is about very immediately answering the promises our members made in the campaign to lower health care costs,” a senior Democratic aide told Vox. “This isn’t the end of stuff we’re going to do on health care, in any regard.
The aide noted that the bill "gives us multiple opportunities to sharpen the contrast with Republicans."
Democrats plan on holding hearings on Medicare-for-all - a platform that helped them reclaim the House majority in the midterms - later this year.
The senior aide said that Tuesday's legislation “doesn’t displace a discussion about a public option, a Medicare buy-in, Medicare-for-all."