On Thursday night, the Trump administration announced in a court filing that it won’t be defending the Affordable Care Act (ACA,) also known as Obamacare, in response to a lawsuit from 20 states seeking to invalidate the health care law.
“The Justice Department told a judge in Texas on Thursday that Congress’ decision to repeal the penalty for failing to buy health insurance renders unconstitutional other Obamacare language banning insurers from charging people more or denying them coverage based on a pre-existing condition,” writes Politico. “The Texas-led lawsuit filed in February claims that the recent elimination of Obamacare’s individual mandate penalty means that the whole health care law should now be ruled invalid. The mandate penalty was wiped out effective in 2019 as part of the GOP tax law passed late last year, H.R. 1 (115).”
In the administration’s response, the government agreed with plaintiffs that major parts of the ACA are now illegal.
The suit filed challenged the constitutionality of the individual mandate. The ACA forced people to get insurance or pay a penalty, but that penalty has now been removed.
But the repeal of the mandate doesn’t take effect until 2019.
“The Supreme Court’s saving construction of the individual mandate as a tax is no longer available,” said the government lawyers. “This court should hold that the ACA’s individual mandate will be unconstitutional as of January 1, 2019, and that the ACA’s guaranteed-issue and community-rating provisions are inseverable from the mandate.”
Other parts of the law were also struck down with this ruling. The provisions of the law that stopped insurers from offering people with medical conditions coverage or charging them higher premiums is no longer valid.
However, the Medicaid expansion of the law still remains in place.
Although the Trump administration has a drastically different stance on health care, Democrats are disappointed in the ruling.
“The Justice Department has an obligation to defend the law, and it has refused to do so because it dislikes this particular law,” said Nicholas Bagley, former Justice Department attorney, to USA TODAY. He also said that the administration’s “dislike for the Affordable Care Act outweighed its respect for the rule of law.”
Donald Verrilli Jr., President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court lawyer, expressed similar sentiments.
“I find it impossible to believe that the many talented lawyers at the department could not come up with any arguments to defend the ACA’s insurance market reforms, which have made such a difference to millions of Americans,” said Verrilli.
Author’s note: Could this finally be the end of Obamacare? Without a Congressional action of any kind, the law won’t be enforced. While we might prefer a Congress that does what is right and uphold the law, this outcome was inevitable.