DOJ Won't Defend Obamacare in Lawsuit Brought by 20 States

DOJ Won't Defend Obamacare in Lawsuit Brought by 20 States

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. These include a "ban on insurers denying coverage and charging higher rates to people with pre-existing health conditions".

On Thursday night, the DOJ declined to defend ObamaCare against a lawsuit filed by Texas and 19 other GOP-led states, arguing that the law is unconstitutional.

Three attorneys for the government withdrew from the case just minutes before the Justice Department's filing in federal court in Fort Worth, Texas, which signaled an internal rift within the administration over its role in defending USA law, according to University of Michigan Law Professor Nicholas Bagley.

The administration says it agrees with Texas that the so-called individual mandate will be unconstitutional without the fine. For instance, it did not go after the creation of health insurance marketplaces, premium subsidies for low-income members and Medicaid expansion.

In many ways, the lawsuit, filed in February, is a replay of the politically divided litigation that ended with the United States supreme court upholding the healthcare overhaul in 2012. "As of 2019, therefore, the individual mandate will be unconstitutional under controlling Supreme Court precedent holding that 'the federal government does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance'".

A group of 20 US states sued the federal government in February, claiming the law was no longer constitutional after last year's repeal of that penalty that individuals had to pay for not having insurance.

The major difference is that the Justice Department under President Donald Trump has largely switched sides.

The US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, said in a letter to Congress on Thursday that Trump, who campaigned on repealing the law and almost did so his first year in office, approved the legal strategy.

It backs up their contention that the ACA provision requiring most Americans to carry health insurance soon will no longer be constitutional.

Jost said it's telling that three career Justice Department lawyers refused to support the administration's position.

The chances for that argument succeeding are viewed with deep skepticism by legal experts, in part because Congress itself indicated that the rest of ObamaCare could still stand without the mandate when it moved to repeal the tax penalty past year.

"It's just one more part of the story of trying to politicize the Justice Department", said Jost, a supporter of the health law.

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