U.S. Justice's ACA decision is latest of many shifts

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Trump administration said in a court filing late Thursday that it will no longer defend key parts of the Affordable Care Act including the

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said it is "a rare case" for the Justice Department not to defend provisions of a law but added that he could not find any "reasonable arguments" to support their constitutionality.

Medicaid is considered to be the largest source of health coverage for the USA.

"Late last night, we informed a Texas court that we would not be defending the constitutionality of the Obamacare mandate", he continued.

Many lawmakers were playing catch-up with the fledgling case, though Rep. Michael Burgess, Texas Republican, said there could be a "silver lining" if the courts force Congress to revisit heath care under the threat of losing Obamacare's protections for people with pre-existing conditions next year.

Sixteen states have intervened in the case to support the law.

Republican Leonard Lance of New Jersey said the Justice Department should back off its effort, and said that if courts did rule against preexisting protections then Congress should act.

This also extends to two major provisions of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, including one that protects people with preexisting conditions from being denied coverage.

Democrats "don't have to defend how the ACA works" as they did when President Obama was in the White House, said Robert Blendon, a Harvard expert on healthcare politics. What's at issue here is the fact that Congress is getting rid of the penalty for the individual mandate, reducing it to zero as of next January 1 - January 1, 2019. Until the Trump Administration (which is the target of the lawsuit) filed its views on Thursday, the case had been building without either side knowing what the government position would be.

The two provisions, along with Obamacare's requirement that insurers offer comprehensive coverage, have been targets of Republicans seeking to repeal the law and lower premiums.

Given the excitement for judicial activism building among conservatives, the Trump administration may have more than a 50 percent chance of success.

SIMON: What other parts of the ACA does the Department of Justice single out in the lawsuit?

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Democrats "are responsible for the current problems that we have in our healthcare system as a result of Obamacare", said Hunt, noting the law passed without a single Republican vote. These include a "ban on insurers denying coverage and charging higher rates to people with pre-existing health conditions".

Texas is arguing that without the fine, the entire law should be struck down as unconstitutional.

Expansions to Medicaid that occurred in individual states prior to the Affordable Care Act were excluded from the review analysis.

"If the Justice Department can just throw in the towel whenever a law is challenged in court, it can effectively pick and choose which laws should remain on the books", wrote Bagley.

As the Cuomo administration frequently points out, the state's uninsured rate has fallen to below 5%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and insurance can be purchased for less than half its price in 2013 before the ACA was implemented.

ROVNER: Well, one of the reasons it's happening - say the insurers, who are filing their rates now for next year - is because they took away this penalty for people who don't have insurance.

As the debate over the Trump administration's decision raged, the National Republican Campaign Committee largely ignored the issue, instead noting that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said a range of health care options are "on the table" if Democrats take back the House in November.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a letter to Congress that Trump, who campaigned on repealing the law and almost did so his first year in office, approved the legal strategy.

The overall ACA and the state-run marketplaces where subsidized health insurance is sold have continued to operate in the six years since the Supreme Court had upheld the individual-insurance mandate, but have often had difficulty holding down insurance premiums and have had a steady erosion of the number of insurance companies willing to continue to sell policies on those exchanges, even with subsidies that help them offset the cost of keeping premiums down. But Martin S. Lederman, a Georgetown University law professor who was a Justice Department official in the Obama administration, called the mass withdrawal a likely sign of distress.

"This suit is an outrageous assault by the administration and congressional Republicans on older Americans, people with disabilities and the 52 million adults with pre-existing conditions", said U.S. Sen.

Legendary journalist Lyle Denniston has written for us as a contributor since June 2011 and has covered the Supreme Court since 1958.

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