The United States Department of Justice filed a brief in federal court on Thursday claiming the provision in the Affordable Care Act which guarantees coverage to people with pre-existing conditions is unconstitutional.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote that DOJ will refuse to defend protections for people with pre-existing conditions, which is one of the most popular aspects of the ACA, also known as Obamacare. Sessions also said DOJ will no longer defend statutes that bar insurers for charging different rates based on gender, age, or health status.
Last fall, the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, throttled through Congress by the Republican majority and signed by President Donald Trump, repealed the Obamacare individual mandate, which required all Americans to sign up for health insurance or pay a fine.
Thursday's move by the Justice Department is the latest in a pattern of sabotage of President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement by the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress and in statehouses across the country.
“Congress found that enforcing guaranteed issue and community-rating requirements without an individual mandate would allow individuals to game the system by waiting until they were sick to purchase health insurance, thereby increasing the price of insurance for everyone else — the polar opposite of what Congress sought in enacting the ACA,” DOJ said in its brief.
In a nutshell, Sessions is saying that people with pre-existing conditions are waiting for their chance to scam the system by only buying insurance when they get sick. This is a demonstrably false and ridiculous assertion. I can say as someone with a pre-existing condition - being without insurance is not an option. These protections are in place so people can get the care they need without having to go bankrupt in the process.
In February, 20 states sued the federal government, claiming that without the individual mandate, the ACA is no longer constitutional. Sessions argued that without the individual mandate, requiring coverage for pre-existing conditions and prohibiting insurers from charging members of a community different rates are also unconstitutional.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) slammed the court filing, referring to it as "cynical sabotage."
"Tonight, the Trump Administration took its cynical sabotage campaign of Americans’ health care to a stunning new low," Pelosi said in a statement. "Once again, Republicans are trying to destroy protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. 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."
[ archives ] Do you think health insurance companies should be required to provide insurance to people with pre-exi… https://t.co/Mf7qDagfWa— PollingReport.com (@PollingReport.com)1528466331.0
Insurers are set to announce premiums for 2019 shortly before the midterms in November, and rates are expected to jump significantly due to the Trump administration's reckless meddling in the insurance market. Uncertainty in the insurance market causes premiums to rise, and this is what can be expected in the wake of the Trump administration's assault on health care.
Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, tore into DOJ's position on Twitter, saying that premiums will increase due to uncertainty.
The Justice Department's brief creates another cloud of uncertainty for insurers, just as they're filing proposed A… https://t.co/MYnN7JkKKb— Larry Levitt (@Larry Levitt)1528416556.0
He also pointed out that 27 percent of Americans have some sort of pre-existing condition. The ten states with the highest rates all voted overwhelmingly for Trump in the 2016 election.
27% of non-elderly adults have pre-existing conditions. Arguing in court that protections for them should be elimin… https://t.co/FlKcbWhJt2— Larry Levitt (@Larry Levitt)1528417110.0
Should the courts side with Sessions and the Justice Department, the Affordable Care Act's days may be numbered.
Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) vowed to fight Republicans "every step of the way" to keep people's health insurance in place.
The Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans are coming after protections for those with pre-existing con… https://t.co/hVxolMPEJS— Senator Bob Casey (@Senator Bob Casey)1528423695.0
Brian Schatz, Hawaii's freshman Democratic Senator, said that Republicans are "going after the most popular" provision in the ACA.
R’s going after the most popular part of ACA. They are fighting in court to eliminate protections for people with p… https://t.co/wf2oDAsgbn— Brian Schatz (@Brian Schatz)1528463423.0
Last year, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll showed that 70 percent of respondents favored prohibiting insurers from charging higher premiums for people with pre-existing conditions. Among Republicans, 59 percent felt the same way.
Randy Bryce, the Democrat vying for House Speaker Paul Ryan's seat in Wisconsin, said that "we have to stop" Trump.
BREAKING: Donald Trump is trying to kill the Affordable Care Act in court and destroy protections for those with pr… https://t.co/digTRLe8aD— Randy Bryce (@Randy Bryce)1528422119.0
"Terrible," tweeted Senator Mark Warner (D-VA).
Terrible. More Trump Administration sabotage of the health insurance that millions of families rely on. This time i… https://t.co/0TCQM85Rx8— Mark Warner (@Mark Warner)1528461589.0
Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) called Sessions' request "unconscionable."
In their quest to undermine the ACA, the Trump Admin is now trying to throw out protections for people with pre-exi… https://t.co/eK7QLN8pef— Senator Jack Reed (@Senator Jack Reed)1528427860.0
Beto O'Rourke, the Democrat challenging incumbent Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, noted that 11 million Texans under the age of 65 have pre-existing conditions. "That's half of us," he said.
Important read. The Affordable Care Act's provision protecting those with pre-existing conditions is under attack.… https://t.co/ocJW6K17bq— Beto O'Rourke (@Beto O'Rourke)1528463950.0
Nearly 2 million Texas have been able to gain coverage thanks to the provision.
The number of Texans finally receiving care thanks to this provision includes more than 780,000 people in Harris, 4… https://t.co/vY8GL51mOC— Beto O'Rourke (@Beto O'Rourke)1528464044.0
Others accused Trump of politicizing the Justice Department as a response to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign's relationships with Russia and other foreign confederates.
As the future of the ACA becomes more uncertain, Americans are being left with fewer and fewer options when it comes to health insurance. For the millions of people who rely on Medicaid, or who don't get insurance through their employers, there could be a world of hurt coming. And voters should keep this in mind when they go to the ballot box a mere 5 months from now.