Justice Department Will No Longer Defend ACA in Court

The U.S. Department of Justice has announced that it will no longer defend the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in court, a decision that could endanger the law’s existence and threaten protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions. Given the uncertainty that this decision introduces, insurers are likely to react by raising premiums for 2019.

This is the latest action in the move to dismantle the ACA. Twenty state governments, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, filed a lawsuit in February 2018 arguing that the individual health-care mandate is unconstitutional. Because the penalty for not having insurance was eliminated by Congress in 2017, the states argued, the mandate can no longer be justified as a tax and must therefore be struck down.

If the courts agree with this reasoning, the entire law could be voided, including protections for the 130 million adults younger than 65 years with pre-existing conditions – a key provision of the ACA. These protections prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions or refusing to cover medical issues related to those conditions. By declining to defend the ACA in court, the Justice Department is removing support for those consumer protections.

America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the association representing health insurance companies, released a statement opposing the lawsuit attempting to deem the ACA unconstitutional. “Removing those provisions will result in renewed uncertainty in the individual market, create a patchwork of requirements in the states, cause rates to go even higher for older Americans and sicker patients, and make it challenging to introduce products and rates for 2019,” the statement read.

Source: NPR, June 8, 2018.