Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department said it will no longer defend any part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. In December, a federal judge in Fort Worth ruled in favor of Texas and several other states that the ACA was unconstitutional. Obamacare remains in effect, with the case headed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Now the Justice Department is siding with Texas, asking the appeals court to affirm the lower court decision. Doing so would call into question health care coverage for 21 million people.
Reed Abelson covers health care for the New York Times. Abelson says the DOJ’s step is a dramatic one.
“The law does much more than create the marketplaces for people to buy individual insurance,” Abelson says. “It includes the Medicaid expansion, it includes important protections for people who have employer-based coverage, it allows adult children up to age 27 to be covered. So this is a big deal.”
Abelson says that whether or not the Fifth Circuit strikes down the ACS, the law will end up back at the Supreme Court, and will be a hot topic during 2020 campaigns.
“Certainly, I think this will be a major political issue,” Abelson says. “I don’t think there’s anything likely that will happen immediately. The working theory is the Supreme Court would likely uphold the law if it hears the case, but never say never.”
On Tuesday, House Democrats released their own proposals for amending the ACA. Abelson says Democrats feel the current court case against the law isn’t particularly strong, and that they have an opportunity to capitalize on the popularity of Obamacare.
“They are concerned about things like the 21 million people who will lose their coverage if the law goes away – the fact that roughly half of the adult population has a preexisting condition that would either make it very expensive, or even impossible to get coverage, without Obamacare,” Abelson says.
Amendments proposed by Democrats are aimed at reducing the cost of the ACA for those who obtain insurance using it.
“It will be interesting politically, especially around the conversation on preexisting conditions, to see what the Republicans do,” Abelson says.
Written by Shelly Brisbin