The GOP tried and failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act last year, so now it’s trying another strategy: deciding not to fight a legal effort to rule key parts of the law unconstitutional, including the ban on insurers denying coverage or charging an obscene amount to people who have “pre-existing conditions.”
Talking Points Memo reported on Thursday that three Justice Department attorneys withdrew from the case, which was filed by 20 GOP-run states against the federal government alleging that last year’s repeal of the individual mandate rendered other parts of the law unconstitutional.
The Justice Department agreed:
In particular, the administration is arguing that the ACA’s ban on discrimination based on pre-existing conditions and limits on charging older patients higher premiums are invalid, and they are requesting that the court put a halt to those provisions in January of 2019, when enforcement of the individual mandate is set to be terminated.
That’s right: the federal government is joining with the states to fight to bring back pre-existing conditions. As Axios noted, the federal government tends to defend federal laws in court, although one example of it not doing so is when the Obama administration (rightly) declined to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court. And now the Trump administration is exercising that same right to, again, bring back pre-existing conditions.
Because the Justice Department is essentially siding with those who think that health insurance companies should be able to sign death warrants for sick people, a group of 16 state attorneys general will defend the law in court.
“The lawsuit initiated by Texas is dangerous and reckless and...would leave millions of Americans without access to affordable, quality healthcare,” California attorney general Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “We won’t sit back as Texas and others try yet again to dismantle our healthcare system. Our coalition of states and partners across the country will fight any effort to strip families of their health insurance.”
This isn’t the first time Jeff Sessions has helped conservative attorneys general in their fights to tank Obama-era policies. Last month, top Senate Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois accused Sessions of “welcoming a threat to sue the president” over DACA. At a committee hearing last year, Sessions refused to answer a question from Durbin asking whether or not he had communicated with conservative attorneys general threatening to sue over DACA, citing that information as “privileged communications.”