Trump Administration Urges Supreme Court to Strike Down ObamaCare

June 26, 2020 by Dan McCue
Salt Lake County Health Department's public health nurse Lee Cherie Booth performs a coronavirus anti-body test outside the Salt Lake County Health Department Thursday, June 25, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration filed a legal brief with the Supreme Court Thursday night, arguing the entire Affordable Care Act should be struck down by the Justices.

Overturning the Affordable Care Act would take away health coverage for about 20 million Americans at a time when states across the country are still struggling to contain the current pandemic.

In addition, protections for people with preexisting health conditions would be put at risk if the court agrees with the administration. The case won’t be heard before the fall.

The brief is straight-forward in its logic. Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote that while it is true the law’s requirement to have health insurance was upheld in court as a tax, Congress has since repealed the financial penalty for violating that requirement, meaning it is no longer a tax and therefore no longer constitutional.

The administration then goes on to argue that because this key provision of the Affordable Care Act is invalid, the entire law is invalid as well.

If the health insurance requirement is invalidated, “then it necessarily follows that the rest of the ACA must also fall,” Francisco said.

In the case before the Supreme Court, Texas and other conservative-led states make a similar argument.

However critics of this rationale argue if Congress intended to strike down the Affordable Care Act when it repealed the mandate penalty, it would have done so at the time.

Among those blasting the administration’s filing Thursday night was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said in a statement, “President Trump and the Republicans’ campaign to rip away the protections and benefits of the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the coronavirus crisis is an act of unfathomable cruelty.”

Privately, many Republicans have described taking on the Affordable Care Act just over four months from the general election in November is an unnecessary headache, particularly as the case would likely not be decided until next Spring.

At the same time, most Supreme Court observers think the current court will rule to uphold the law, given that Chief Justice John Roberts has previously sided with the court’s liberal wing to uphold it on two previous occasions.

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.

As of Thursday, the government said 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.

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