The National Health Law Program, an organization that has spent the past fifty years defending the health rights of low-income individuals, is troubled, but not shocked, that the Trump administration has sided with conservative states led by Texas in a case to throw out the Affordable Care Act’s protections for preexisting conditions.
The brief filed by the U.S. Department of Justice yesterday, falsely claims that the ACA’s protections for preexisting conditions should be ruled unconstitutional on the grounds that those parts of the health care law cannot legally stand following the repeal of the individual mandate as part of the GOP tax bill passed in December. The brief also threatens to undo provisions of the law that protect seniors and women from insurance practices that in the past led to much higher rates for both demographics. Protections for people with a family history of health problems or those in high risk industries could also be barred from coverage if the Trump administration succeeds. The spurious nature of this move is highlighted by the numerous career lawyers at the DOJ, from both the Obama and Trump administrations, who have withdrawn from the case.
Beyond the flawed legal merits, this action by the administration is politically motivated and continues its intentional sabotage of the ACA, which Trump has carried out by executive fiat since the failure of the ACA repeal effort in 2017.
Most striking however, is the moral and ethical callousness of this lawsuit. Without protections for people with pre-existing conditions, insurance companies will once again turn away the most vulnerable members of our society. Cancer, HIV/AIDS, and diabetes should not be a death sentence in this nation, let alone conditions such as pregnancy, obesity, or asthma which are also considered disqualifying pre-existing conditions. The fact that Trump does not want this to take effect until after the 2018 midterm strongly suggests that administration realizes that this is a bitter pill that people will not stand for.