Trump agencies won’t explain post-Obamacare plans
The Trump administration won’t say what it plans to do if it wins its legal fight to undo the Affordable Care Act.
On Monday, the Department of Justice changed its position in a court battle over Obamacare. It now says that a lower court was correct in finding that the entire law should be undone. That’s a switch from its earlier position that only parts of the nine-year-old law protecting access to health coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions should go, while other elements ought to be preserved.
Wiping the ACA off the books could end subsidies for millions of people, eliminate expanded Medicaid coverage in 37 states, roll back requirements for employer health plans, and even change rules regarding menu labeling in restaurants. It’s not clear how such policies would be unwound if courts accept the Trump administration’s new position.
On Tuesday, the Trump administration declined to say anything about what it would do if it gets its way.
Caitlin Oakley, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, declined to answer detailed questions about its plan if the lawsuit succeeds. She referred the questions to the Justice Department.
“The Department of Justice has determined that the district court’s comprehensive opinion came to the correct conclusion and will support it on appeal,” DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupac said in an email.
Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, has previously said that the administration wants to preserve coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and has contingency plans if the law is overturned. A spokesman for her agency didn’t respond to detailed questions about what those plans were.
Democrats seized on the change in the administration’s position, arguing that it reversed promises that President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers had made in the midterm election campaign.
“This is an escalation of the Trump administration and Republicans’ attacks on protections for people with pre-existing conditions,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat and minority leader, in a speech Tuesday. “From the moment this administration and this Republican majority came to power, they have waged a wholesale attack on our health-care system.”
About 52 million adults under 65 could have been excluded from buying individual health insurance under the pre-Obamacare rules, according to estimates from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
States trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act are battling in court with other states defending the law. Until Monday, the administration split the difference. It argued that much of the ACA should remain intact but that insurance rules that protect people with pre-existing conditions can no longer stand after Congress repealed the tax penalty for going without coverage.
The DOJ’s new stance aligns with Texas and other conservative states that challenged the ACA. In December, a district court judge in Texas agreed with that position. The question is before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The dispute could go to the Supreme Court, which has twice upheld much of Obamacare. Legal experts, including some who oppose the ACA, have said that they expect the courts to uphold the law.