Democrats, industry group push back on Trump Administration’s ‘abandonment of ACA’

Senate Democratic Leaders are pushing back against the Trump Administration’s announcement that it will no longer defend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), saying among other things that although President Trump has promised people with preexisting conditions would retain the protections provided to them by our current health care system, he is yet again choosing to score political points above protecting the health-and the wallets-of the American people. Under the administration’s “latest and ultimate act of sabotage,” the lawmakers contend that 133 million Americans with preexisting conditions are at risk of being charged more or denied coverage altogether, older Americans could face higher charges due to an “age tax,” and women again could be charged more than men for health coverage.

Background. The plaintiffs in Texas v. U.S.A. have asked a federal court in the Northern District of Texas to preliminarily enjoin the entire ACA. In a memorandum filed on June 7, the Department of Justice argued that the ACA’s individual mandate is now unconstitutional, making clear that the Trump Administration will not defend the ACA. The DOJ argues that since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (P.L. 115-97) sets the individual mandate to zero and when the provision becomes effective in 2019, the individual mandate will be unconstitutional. Moreover, Congress’s own findings establish that the guaranteed-issue and community-rating provisions may not be severed from the minimum coverage provision, the DOJ asserted, among other things.

Reaction. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have sent a letter to President Trump urging him to reverse the Administration’s decision to not defend the constitutionality of the ACA. The Democratic lawmakers urged Trump to put the American people first, to reverse the politically motivated decision not to defend the constitutionality the U.S. health care system, and instead work with Democrats in a bipartisan manner to improve health care for all American families.

“Your decision to call protections for pre-existing conditions ‘unconstitutional’ directly contradicts the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision, NFIB v. Sebelius,” the senators wrote. “Disturbingly, this also represents another step in your administration’s continuous attacks on the rights of people with pre-existing health conditions and we urge you to reverse this decision.”

According to industry group America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), “Zeroing out the individual mandate penalty should not result in striking important consumer protections, such as guaranteed issue and community rating rules that help those with preexisting conditions. Removing those provisions will result in renewed uncertainty in the individual market, create a patchwork of requirements in the states, cause rates to go even higher for older Americans and sicker patients, and make it challenging to introduce products and rates for 2019. Instead, we should focus on advancing proven solutions that ensure affordability for all consumers.”

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