The Trump Administration Now Thinks the Entire ACA Should Fall
In a stunning, two-sentence letter submitted to the Fifth Circuit today, the Justice Department announced that it now thinks the entire Affordable Care Act should be enjoined. That’s an even more extreme position than the one it advanced at the district court in Texas v. Azar, when it argued that the court should “only” zero out the protections for people with preexisting conditions.
A big shout-out to Josh Dorner for providing a roundup of the current status of a five different lawsuits (six, really, although two of them are on the same topic in two different states) fighting back against GOP/Trump Administration sabotage of the Affordable Care Act, including:
The "Take Care" lawsuit (which tackles the Trump Admin slashing HC.gov's marketing budget, outreach budget, open enrollment period length and more)
There's also the various CSR reimbursement payment lawsuits filed by various insurance carriers. Those should have been a fairly minor issue only relating to about $2 billion in payments dating back to the 4th quarter of 2017...but as I explained in detail here, these suits may instead turn into an even more massive headache for the Trump Administration, and rightly so.
As I noted a few weeks ago, I haven't written a whole lot about the idiotic (but terrifyingly so) TexasFoldEm lawsuit in awhile. Part of this is because I was out of the country over the holidays; part is because there hasn't been a whole lot of movement on the case since right-wing federal Judge Reed O'Connor ruled that the ACA was unconstitutional using a legal argument so thin it hula hoops with a Cheerio.
I haven't written anything about the developments in the #TexasFoldEm anti-ACA lawsuit in awhile, partly because I was out of the country for a couple of weeks and got backlogged. Then again, things are kind of at a standstill at the moment anyway, so perhaps that omission on my part isn't quite as big of a deal as I had feared.
Immediately after last night's bombshell* announcement of the ruling in the Texas Fold'em lawsuit by right-wing judge Reed O'Connor, one of the numerous parts of the outrage was over the timing of the decision being announced. Just about everyone, myself included, assumed that O'Connor would either...
The recent federal court decision is still moving through the courts, and the exchanges are still open for business and we will continue with open enrollment. There is no impact to current coverage or coverage in a 2019 plan.
"Open enrollment is full-steam ahead in California and continues in other states for several more weeks. No one in America should let this TX District Court ruling discourage them from enrolling in health coverage or be worried about using the coverage they have. This case will wind its way through the courts and I’m confident the Supreme Court will once again do the right thing and uphold the Affordable Care Act,"
*....pending an immediate appeal, all the way up to the Supreme Court over the next year or so, which means a LOT of lawyers are about to make a LOT of billable hours.
Before you read anything else: DON'T PANIC. An injunction against the ACA was not included with the ruling (at least, not yet). The 2019 Open Enrollment Period isstill ongoing through Saturday night in 44 states and longer than that in the other 6 + DC.
If you haven't enrolled for 2019 healthcare coverage yet, now is still the time to do so.
Maryland files suit to protect health reform from Texas.
... the Maryland attorney general today filed a separate lawsuit in a Maryland district court. Among other things, he’s seeking an injunction requiring the continued enforcement of the law. Depending on how quickly the Maryland case moves, it’s possible we could see dueling injunctions—one ordering the Trump administration to stop enforcing the law, the other ordering it to keep enforcing.
That’s an unholy mess just waiting to happen. Now, it may not come to that. My best guess is that the Texas lawsuit will fizzle: any injunction will likely be stayed pending appeal, either by the Fifth Circuit or the Supreme Court, and the case is going nowhere on the merits. The Maryland lawsuit will likely prove unnecessary.
I don't have much to add to this other than to note how much this case underscores just how much power and importance state attorneys general have.
To enter the Fort Worth Courtroom of Judge Reed O’Connor on September 5, 2018, was to leave the real world. The Affordable Care Act was once again on trial. At stake was access to health care for the 20 million Americans who have gained coverage through the ACA, affordable coverage for 133 million Americans with preexisting conditions, and preventive services coverage for 44 million Medicare beneficiaries.
U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor, a George W. Bush appointee, vigorously questioned attorneys during the three-hour hearing but gave no indication when he would rule.
Lawyers for the Trump administration partially agreed with the red states' argument, concluding that the removal of Obamacare's individual mandate requires striking down the law's insurance provisions, including protections for people with preexisting medical conditions.
But the administration disagreed on the need for immediate action, arguing that any remedies should not be applied until next year.