Trump administration move could take away coverage for preexisting conditions


Posted on: June 8th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Democrats are coming out swinging against the Department of Justice’s move to back a lawsuit brought forth by a group of Republican attorneys general against the Affordable Care Act that, if successful, could result in the dismantling of some of the most significant parts of the health care law.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is vowing to fight the move in court.

“The lawsuit initiated by Texas is dangerous and reckless and would destroy the ACA as we know it. It would leave millions of Americans without access to affordable, quality healthcare. It is irresponsible and puts politics ahead of working families,” Becerra said in a statement.

“We won’t sit back as Texas and others try yet again to dismantle our healthcare system. Our coalition of states and partners across the country will fight any effort to strip families of their health insurance,” he said.

The Texas-led lawsuit filed earlier this year claims that Congress’ decision to eliminate the individual mandate penalty, which goes into effect in 2019, should render the entire health care law invalid.

“Once the heart of the ACA—the individual mandate—is declared unconstitutional, the remainder of the ACA must also fall,” the lawsuit alleges.

In a court filing late Thursday, the Trump administration is specifically urging the Texas federal court to strike down two provisions from the ACA: one that requires insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions, and the other that prevents insurers from charging individuals a higher premium because of their pre-existing condition.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions claimed it’s “because otherwise individuals could wait until they become sick to purchase insurance, thus driving up premiums for everyone else.”

But the administration said the rest of the law, including Medicaid expansion, can remain in place.

Becerra estimated that the states that back the health care law could lose half a trillion dollars in health care funding if the suit is successful. In April, he and 16 attorneys general sought to intervene in the federal lawsuit. The motion to intervene was granted last month.

If the Trump administration’s argument prevails, insurers could once again be able to deny Americans health insurance based on their health insurance.

“This is disgusting but not surprising. A year and a half into sabotaging Americans’ health care, this may be President Trump’s meanest effort yet – he is working to let insurance companies refuse to cover sick people,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said in a statement. “Think about that for a minute – the president of the United States is actively working to give corporations the power to tell moms, dads and kids that they can’t get the health care they need to stay alive. And Republicans in Congress are letting him do it.”

“The entire point of insurance is that it should be there when you need it. No one in Connecticut – or anywhere – should have to fear that they or their loved ones will be kicked to the curb and refused care when they need it most. The White House needs to hear that the American people will not stand for this,” Murphy said.

According to healthcare.gov, a pre-existing condition is a health problem a person has before enrolling in a new health care plan.

Epilepsy, cancer, diabetes, lupus, sleep apnea, and pregnancy are all examples of pre-existing conditions.

Mental disorders, including depression and anxiety, are also considered pre-existing conditions.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that more than 16 million Americans suffer from depression each year.

In a blistering statement, the American Psychiatric Association is calling on the administration to reverse its decision.

“We strongly condemn the Administration’s decision not to defend the patient protections provided in the Affordable Care Act, an established law of the land,” APA President Altha Stewart, M.D. said.

“In particular, this decision could lead to insurers denying coverage to the 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions. This is harmful to the health of these Americans and is very short-sighted considering the nation is in the midst of an opioid epidemic and 30% rise in suicide rates. We call upon the Administration to reverse this decision and defend the rights of our patients,” Stewart said.

Republicans in Congress have tried endlessly to the repeal the Affordable Care Act since it was signed into law in 2010 by President Barack Obama. They were successful in repealing the individual mandate that requires all Americans to have health insurance after it was included in the GOP’s tax reform legislation that Trump signed into law in December.

But some moderate Republicans, including Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, previously helped tank Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace the ACA citing their concerns over the possible elimination of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

ABC News has reached out to Murkowski and Collins for comment.

In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, Sessions acknowledged that the executive branch typically defends existing federal law, but he concluded that this is a “rare case where the proper course is to forgo” defense of the individual mandate.

The Senate’s top Democrat called on the DOJ to defend the law of the land.

“The Trump administration once again is allowing premiums to go up and middle-class Americans to pay more. The ACA is the law of the land and DOJ should defend it,” Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York said in a tweet.

Senate Democrats have vowed to make health care policy a priority this summer, as they gear up for midterm elections this November.

The shift to health care is a notable strategy by which Democrats are hoping to remind American voters that Republicans are “deliberately sabotaging” the health care system, as Schumer put it in a letter he wrote to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier in the week.

“President Trump promised the American people health care that is “far less expensive and far better.” Unfortunately, today the situation is far worse,” Schumer wrote. “After 18 months of trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act and deliberately sabotaging our health care system, Republican policies have resulted in major premium increases for millions of Americans. This sabotage also has those with pre-existing conditions once again facing the prospect of denied coverage, increased costs, and medical bankruptcy.”

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