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Reuters/Carlos Barria (Trump), Larry Downing (Obama)


  • In a late-night move Thursday, the Trump administration has once again urged the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.
  • More than 20 million Americans rely on Obamacare for healthcare.
  • The move is amid record-high unemployment and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected nearly 2.5 million Americans and killed more than 124,000.
  • In the late-night briefing, the Justice Department petitioned the court to overturn Obamacare, saying that the overturning of the individual mandate — a penalty for not having health insurance that was repealed by a Republican-led Congress in the 2017 tax bill — invalidated the entire law.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration on Thursday urged the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

In the late-night briefing, the Justice Department petitioned the court to overturn Obamacare, saying that the overturning of the individual mandate — a tax penalty for not having health insurance that was struck from the law by a Republican-led Congress in 2017 — invalidated the entire law.

“No further analysis is necessary; once the individual mandate and the guaranteed-issue and community-rating provisions are invalidated, the remainder of the ACA cannot survive,” the Department of Justice said in a statement to Politico.

The administration’s latest high court filing came the same day the government reported that close to half a million people who lost their health insurance amid the economic shutdown to slow the spread of COVID-19 have gotten coverage through HealthCare.gov.

On Thursday, the US saw yet another record single-day rise in cases, with 39,327 new coronavirus infections reported across the country. The Trump administration’s legal brief makes no mention of the virus.

Some 20 million Americans could lose their health coverage and protections for people with preexisting health conditions also would be put at risk if the court agrees with the administration in a case that won’t be heard before the fall.

In the case before the Supreme Court, Texas and other conservative-led states argue that the ACA was essentially rendered unconstitutional after Congress passed tax legislation in 2017 that eliminated the law’s unpopular fines for not having health insurance but left in place its requirement that virtually all Americans have coverage.

After failing to repeal Obamacare in 2017 when Republicans fully controlled Congress, President Donald Trump has put the weight of his administration behind the legal challenge.

Texas led 19 states arguing that the individual mandate — the requirement that everyone must have health insurance — is unconstitutional, after Congress gutted the key portion of the mandate, the tax penalty for not buying coverage.

In December of 2018, US District Judge Reed O’Connor in the Northern District of Texas agreed with those states and ruled the individual mandate unconstitutional. Because the mandate is an essential part of the ACA in the judge’s view, that led him to rule that the entire health law should be struck down.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans delivered a complicated ruling on the law last year. As NRP explained: “So this decision says, yes, the zero-dollar penalty is unconstitutional. But when it comes to whether it can be cut off from the rest of the law, they kind of punted. They sent it back to the district judge and said, do more analysis on this.”

Democratic-led states appealed the decision to the Supreme Court earlier this year.

If the health insurance requirement is invalidated, “then it necessarily follows that the rest of the ACA must also fall,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote Thursday.

The Trump administration’s views on what parts of the ACA might be kept or replaced if the law is overturned have shifted over time. But in legal arguments, it has always supported getting rid of Obamacare provisions that prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against people on account of their medical history.

Nonetheless, Trump has repeatedly assured Americans that people with preexisting conditions would still be protected. Neither the White House nor congressional Republicans have specified how.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slammed the move in a tweet late Thursday, writing that the move goes “to rip away the protections and benefits of the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the coronavirus crisis.”

“There is no legal justification and no moral excuse for the Trump Administration’s disastrous efforts to take away Americans’ health care,” Pelosi said in a statement. “On Day One of this Congress, the House Democratic Majority voted to throw the full legal weight of the House of Representatives against this dangerous lawsuit.”

“While President Trump tries to tear away protections for people with pre-existing conditions, Democrats are working to build on the Affordable Care Act to lower health costs and prescription drug prices For The People,” she continued.

The new sign-ups for health coverage come from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The figures are partial because they don’t include sign-ups from states that run their own health insurance marketplaces. Major states like California and New York are not counted in the federal statistics.

An estimated 27 million people may have lost job-based coverage due to layoffs, and it’s unclear what — if anything — they’re turning to as a fallback. People who lose employer health care are eligible for a special sign-up period for subsidized plans under the Obama-era law. Many may also qualify for Medicaid.

Thursday’s report from the government showed that about 487,000 people signed up with HealthCare.gov after losing their workplace coverage this year. That’s an increase of 46% from the same time period last year.

The Trump administration has been criticized for not doing as much as states like California to publicize these readily available backups. In response, administration officials say they have updated the HealthCare.gov website to make it easier for consumers to find information on special sign-up periods.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, an advocate for the ACA, slammed the late-night decision from the Trump administration.

“President Trump, in this cruel lawsuit, has shown us who he really is,” Becerra said in a statement to Business Insider. “We intend to win this the way we won DACA: with the facts, the law and the American people on our side”

As reported by Business Insider