Trump Seeks End to Pre-existing Condition Mandate

Justice Department says heart of Obama Care unconstitutional

Modal Trigger Jeff Sessions AP

In a legal filing Thursday night, the Department of Justice said that key parts of Obamacare should be invalidated and that the individual mandate is unconstitutional.

A group of 20 USA states sued the federal government in February, claiming the law was no longer constitutional after last year's repeal of that penalty that individuals had to pay for not having insurance.

The move is part of a lawsuit filed by 20 GOP led states who argue Obamacare should be overturned.

These sections of the law, along with the mandate that insurers provide comprehensive coverage, are the bedrock of Obamacare's protections for those with pre-existing conditions. The court held that Congress was able to offer people a choice: get insurance, or pay a tax. These include a "ban on insurers denying coverage and charging higher rates to people with pre-existing health conditions". "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.

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Stacy Stanford, policy analyst for the Utah Health Policy Project, a think tank and advocacy organization that is also a federal health exchange enrollment hub, said "the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and therefore the administration should be defending it".

The Department of Justice said it agrees with Texas that the so-called individual mandate will be unconstitutional without the fine. On May 16, the court granted 17 Democratic attorneys general, led by California, permission to intervene to defend the ACA. As a result, the entire remainder of the ACA must be upheld, even if the court finds the mandate unconstitutional.

"Zeroing out the individual mandate penalty should not result in striking important consumer protections", the group said. There is reason to believe the judge may accept the Trump administration's arguments.

"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.

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"Otherwise individuals could wait until they become sick to purchase insurance, thus driving up premiums for everyone else", Sessions said in his letter to Pelosi.

Jost said it's telling that three career Justice Department lawyers refused to support the administration's position. 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. In their suit, lodged in February in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, they argue that the entire law is now invalid.

More recently, the White House and Department of Health and Human Services have been working to make it easier for consumers to buy relatively cheap health plans that exclude some of the benefits the ACA requires. That ruling hinged on the reasoning that, while the government "does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance", as Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority, it "does have the power to impose a tax on those without health insurance".

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