In a reversal that could threaten health coverage for more than 20 million Americans, lawyers for the Trump Administration have come out in support of a previous ruling by a Texas federal judge that struck down the the entire Affordable Care Act as unconstitutional.
In December, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled that individual mandate to buy insurance was unconstitutional and “inseverable” from the rest of the 2010 law, striking down President Obama’s landmark legislation.
Almost immediately the decision was appealed by a group of pro-ACA attorneys general led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the case is currently at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Earlier, the Trump Administration took the unusual step of deciding not to defend the legality of the individual mandate and also coming out in favor of eliminating protections for patients with pre-existing conditions.
This recent statement goes further in backing the complete invalidation of the ACA, which includes provisions that range from Medicaid expansion to calorie labeling to the aforementioned patient protections.
“The Department of Justice has determined that the district court’s judgment should be affirmed,” DOJ lawyers wrote to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. “The United States is not urging that any portion of the district court’s judgment be reversed.”
The decision by Judge O’Connor was unusual in that legal commentators on both ends of the political spectrum considered it an overreach of judicial power.
Legal experts expect the case to be brought up in front of the Supreme Court, which will be the third time the high court will take up the issue of the ACA. In two previous decisions in 2012 and 2015, the court upheld the law.
“The notion that you could gut the entire ACA and not wreak havoc on the lives of millions of people is insane. The Act is now part of the plumbing of the health-care system. Which means the Trump administration has now committed itself to a legal position that would inflict untold damage on the American public,” wrote University of Michigan law professor Nicholas Bagley in a blog post.
Photo: Jim Watson/AFP, Getty Images