Trump's Department of Justice wants the entire Affordable Care Act overturned.
The Trump administration really wants to take health care away from millions of people.
Trump's 2020 budget proposal called for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but now, thanks to the Department of Justice, he may not even have to wait for a budget to pass.
Late last year, in a ruling that even conservatives called "embarrassingly bad," an activist federal judge in Texas struck down the entirety of the ACA. He threw out the whole law because Congress repealed one part of the law, the tax penalty. He reasoned that because one provision was repealed, the entire law was null and void — even though Congress could have repealed the whole law and didn't.
Under Jeff Sessions, the DOJ had only argued that certain portions of the law, including protections for pre-existing conditions, should be struck down. Now, under William Barr, the department is calling for the entire law to be repealed. They did this with no fanfare, filing a four-line letter with the appellate court overseeing the appeal in the case.
Make no mistake, though. If the DOJ prevails, the results for Americans would be devastating. Nearly 52 million people with pre-existing conditions were already put at risk when the administration began to tell courts that they could strike down the provision requiring coverage of those conditions. Nearly 30 million people will lose their healthcare coverage if the ACA is repealed.
Part of what makes this so appalling is that it runs counter to what the DOJ is obliged to do. Even Jeff Sessions noted that the "Executive Branch has a longstanding tradition of defending the constitutionality of duly enacted statutes if reasonable arguments can be made in their defense."
Here, under Barr, the DOJ is entirely abandoning that principle. The DOJ's letter to the Fifth Circuit makes no mention of that longstanding tradition, nor does it explain why it is critical for the DOJ to depart from it in this instance.
In the 2018 midterms, when it came to the issue of healthcare, Americans voted overwhelmingly in favor of Democrats. Exit polls showed health care was the most important issue to 41 percent of American voters. But the Trump administration doesn't care about the will of the voters. Attacking the ACA via the courts allows them to ignore the results of elections entirely.
The administration's behavior makes it even more imperative that Democrats organize around healthcare issues and show up in 2020. Getting Trump out of the office is the only way this is going to stop.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.