Since January 2017, President Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have waged a relentless war on health care, trying anything and everything to undermine, sabotage, and repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Last night, the Trump Administration launched its most egregious salvo yet: its lawyers are asking the courts to repeal key consumer protections that protect people with pre-existing conditions.
Overview of Texas v HHS and What the Trump Administration Just Did
Back in February, Republican state attorneys general from Texas and 19 other states filed a lawsuit arguing that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional now that Congress and President Trump repealed the individual mandate in their tax bill. The lawsuit argues the individual mandate, which required most people have health coverage or pay a fine, was crucial to making the Affordable Care Act work. Now that the individual mandate penalty has essentially been repealed, they argue the law is unworkable and should be struck down. Legal experts agree this argument is without merit.
Normally, the Department of Justice (DOJ) defends federal law in court. However, last night Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the DOJ will side with the Republican attorneys general and refuse to defend the constitutionality of the ACA. Moreover, the DOJ decided to specifically attack the ACA’s most popular reform, provisions banning insurance companies from denying coverage or charging people more because of a pre-existing condition.
The Trump Administration Wants to Put Insurance Companies Back in Charge to Deny Coverage and Charge More for People with Pre-Existing Conditions
While the courts and legal scholars debate these arguments, the real impact of the Trump Administration’s decision if they win the lawsuit is clear: overnight, Americans would once again be at the mercy of insurance companies, which could once again deny coverage or charge more because of a pre-existing condition. Roughly half of nonelderly American adults, or as many as 130 million people, have at least one pre-existing condition. Nationally, the most common pre-existing conditions were high blood pressure (44 million people), behavioral health disorders (45 million people), high cholesterol (44 million people), asthma and chronic lung disease (34 million people), and osteoarthritis and other joint disorders (34 million people).
The Trump Administration’s argument would also allow insurance companies to charge women more than men, and subject older Americans to an expensive “age tax” that would allows insurance companies to charge them much more.
DOJ Move Creates Uncertainty that Could Lead to Even Higher Rates
This all is happening at the same time as insurance companies in states across the country want to hike rates by double digits, pointing to Republican sabotage and uncertainty in the market as the reason. By creating even more uncertainty in the health care markets, the Trump Administration could raise health care costs even more for millions of people who are already facing double-digit hikes due to previous sabotage.
Our Health Care is at Stake
This dangerous lawsuit, now with the backing from the Trump Administration, threatens the care and coverage of tens of millions of Americans. If the courts rule in favor of the Republican attorneys general, critical Affordable Care Act protections would vanish overnight, unleashing chaos in our entire health care system. Our health care should not be at the mercy of partisan vendettas pushing “ludicrous” legal theories.