With a short two-sentence letter, the Trump administration signaled its intention to support complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
That would include removing protections that ensure individuals with pre-existing conditions be covered by health insurers.
In December, a federal judge ruled that the individual mandate of the law is unconstitutional. The ruling was the result of a lawsuit brought by 20 GOP-led states.
U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor, a George W. Bush appointee in Fort Worth, Texas, wrote in his decision: “In sum, the Individual Mandate ‘is so interwoven with [the ACA’s] regulations that they cannot be separated. None of them can stand.’”
Should the law be struck down in its entirety, over 20 million Americans are estimated to lose their healthcare insurance.
On Monday, the Trump Justice Department dispatched a letter saying it supports the judge’s ruling.
“The Department of Justice has determined that the district court’s judgment should be affirmed,” the Justice Department lawyers wrote to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is now considering the case. “The United States is not urging that any portion of the district court’s judgment be reversed.”
At this time, however, Republicans in Congress have no plan to replace the ACA should it be struck down as a whole.
The Republican Party will become “The Party of Healthcare!”— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 26, 2019
House Democrats call the Trump administration’s new legal position “unconscionable.”
A coalition of Democratic-led states led by California is fighting the Texas ruling, arguing that the federal health care law can remain in place even without the individual mandate which dictates a small penalty fee/tax for those Americans who choose not to purchase health coverage.
Politico is reporting today that Monday’s announcement was opposed by two key Cabinet secretaries: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Attorney General William Barr.
No matter the resulting ruling at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, expect the case to land at the Supreme Court. The high court has upheld the constitutionality of the ACA twice – in 2012 and in 2105.