After a series of attempts in Congress since the start of his term, as well as a push in federal courts, President Donald Trump's administration is making a new attempt to get rid of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare. On Monday, March 25, the Trump administration's DOJ told a federal appeals court that it believes the ACA should be completely rejected and overturned, siding with a previous ruling from a federal judge. The stance is a new, more intense strike on former President Barack Obama's signature policy. The Trump administration's latest attack on Obamacare is trying a new strategy to get rid of it entirely, which could impact health care for millions of people all over the country.
According to a court filing, Trump's Department of Justice (DOJ) is supporting a federal ruling from December 2018 that concluded the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. In December, Judge Reed O'Connor of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit filed an opinion, still pending, which struck down the individual mandate, which requires that all Americans have health coverage or pay a penalty. In his decision, O'Connor wrote, "The Individual Mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA), is unconstitutional and that the remainder of the ACA is inseverable," Meaning, since the ACA can't be separated from the individual-coverage requirement, the entire ACA would be rendered unconstitutional. Despite O'Connor's ruling, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it would continue enforcing all aspects of the ACA back in 2018.
But now, the DOJ is siding with O'Connor's ruling, taking a much broader stance than it had previously by declaring that the ACA as a whole — and not just the individual mandate — is unconstitutional. Three DOJ attorneys signed the Trump administration's filing on March 25, saying O'Connor's decision should be affirmed and the Affordable Care Act should be invalidated. In an email to Elite Daily, DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec wrote, “The Department of Justice has determined that the district court’s comprehensive opinion came to the correct conclusion and will support it on appeal.”
Currently, the ACA covers people with pre-existing conditions, allows people up to 26 to stay on their parents' plans, expands Medicaid, requires most plans to cover preventative care, and improves mental health and substance use disorder coverages, according to Families USA, an organization focused on health equity.
On Tuesday, March 26, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement on the Trump administration's new efforts to scrap the law entirely. The statement, in part, read
Tonight in federal court, the Trump Administration decided not only to try to destroy protections for Americans living with pre-existing conditions, but to declare all-out war on the health care of the American people. ... Democrats will continue to fight relentlessly to protect people with pre-existing conditions and to deliver lower health costs and prescription drug prices for every American.”
Many Democrats echoed Pelosi's sentiment. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) tweeted, "I’ll say it for the zillionth time: We will not let the Trump administration rip health care away from millions of Americans. Not now. Not ever." Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) called the stance "outrageous," tweeting, "Millions of Americans would lose their health care if this administration had their way." Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment, but did not immediately hear back.
If the ACA is eliminated through the Trump administration's new strategy, over 8 million people across the country could lose their health insurance coverage, according to CNBC. It's also possible that the Trump administration's new stance will put health care and the ACA front-and-center during the 2020 presidential debates, which would be... interesting, to say the least.
So what next? That's for the courts to figure out, I guess. We'll all just have to stay tuned for the outcome.