In an important legal shift, the Trump Administration is now asking the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Court to strike down the entire Affordable Care Act. This squares the Justice Department with state officials who earlier intervened in the Texas case, including Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. From the Washington Post:
A federal judge in Texas ruled in December that the law’s individual mandate “can no longer be sustained as an exercise of Congress’s tax power” and further found that the remaining portions of the law are void. He based his judgment on changes to the nation’s tax laws made by congressional Republicans in 2017.
At first, the Trump administration had not gone as far, arguing in a brief last June that the penalty for not buying insurance was legally distinct from other provisions of the law, which could still stand. Justice Department officials said there were grounds only to strike down the law’s consumer protections, including those for people with preexisting health conditions.
The government said it planned to file a brief in support of the Texas-led coalition of states pursuing the law’s complete nullification, now that, “the United States is not urging that any portion of the district court’s judgment be reversed,” as the filing stated.
We’ve written before about Rutledge’s effort in the Texas case to kill the Affordable Care Act, which has brought health coverage to 300,000 Arkansans and provided numerous other benefits for those already covered — coverage of birth control and preventive care, an end to discrimination in pricing and other elements, particularly coverage of family members and pre-existing illnesses.
The ACA has been a windfall to Arkansas’s budget and has prevented the closure of numerous small hospitals.
So what if Trump succeeds and wrecks the Affordable Care Act. Will Arkansas voters still cheer Trump and the Arkansas attorney general who win such a famous victory?
Just to be sure, I’ve asked the A.G.’s office if they remain on board with the move to kill Obamacare. Indeed they do. Said a spokesman: “The plaintiffs will review that brief when it is filed and take appropriate action to defend their recent victory invalidating the unconstitutional Affordable Care Act.”
Polling, contrary to Rutledge’s legal effort, says the Affordable Care Act is popular. It helped many Democrats to victory in 2018. But a lying conman with multiple Russian ties and admiration for Putin has been declared an exonerated “winner,” so I make no predictions.
If the appeals court accepts the Trump administration’s new arguments, millions of people could lose health insurance, including those who gained coverage through the expansion of Medicaid and those who have private coverage subsidized by the federal government.