The Trump administration on Wednesday offered the first full look at how it plans to argue that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, arguing in new court filings that the healthcare law should be “invalidated in its entirety.”
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Now, in a 60-page filing with the 5th U.S. District Court of Appeals, the Department of Justice argued that because Congress stripped the individual mandate, which required Americans to either get health insurance or face a financial penalty, from the Affordable Care Act in 2017, the remainder of the law is no longer constitutional.
The DOJ acknowledged that it had reversed course on its position toward the ACA at the end of March, instead agreeing with a December ruling by a federal judge in Texas that struck down the law as unconstitutional. Early on, the administration argued that only certain parts of the ACA were unconstitutional, but that other parts -- such as Medicaid expansion -- should be allowed to stand.
“The remaining ACA provisions should not be severed from the individual mandate, regardless of whether the government might support some of those provisions as policy matter,” the administration wrote in the filing.
If ObamaCare is repealed, it would likely leave 32 million people without health insurance by 2026, according to a Congressional Budget Office report from 2017 on the effects of repealing the ACA. Average premiums would also likely spike as a result.
Repealing the ACA has been a longstanding goal of President Trump and Republicans, but they failed to do so in 2017 when the Senate narrowly missed getting the necessary number of votes.
Democrats wasted no time on Wednesday responding to the news. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer ripped the filing as “heartless and wrong,” in a tweet,
“Any Republican in Congress who refuses to oppose the DOJ’s action is complicit in their efforts to gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions & strip away health care from millions,” he said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, urged congressional Democrats to strengthen protections for people with pre-existing conditions in the face of the “cruel assault on Americans’ health care” in the courts.
“There is no viable legal argument and no moral defense for the devastation the Trump Administration is asking the court to inflict on Americans’ health care,” she said in a statement.