On Monday, the Trump administration once again made its intentions about the Affordable Care Act clear—it wants to get rid of it altogether, which would potentially take away the healthcare of tens of millions of Americans.
The latest salvo came in a legal filing submitted to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, in which the Justice Department wrote that it agreed with the December 2018 ruling of Reed O’Connor, a federal judge in Texas, who declared the entire law to be unconstitutional. That ruling was quickly appealed by a coalition of 16 states, led by California, and it’s currently up before the Fifth Circuit.
Here’s more context from the Washington Post:
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.
But in the new filing, signed by three Justice Department attorneys, the administration said that the decision of U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor should be affirmed and the entirety of the ACA should be invalidated.
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.
While one legal scholar interviewed by the Post described the Trump administration’s position on the Affordable Care Act as “legally untenable,” what the move has done is unite Democratic elected officials, who until the administration’s court filing had been hotly debating the feasibility of Medicare for All. Months after a midterm election in which Democrats retook the House in no small part due to the Republican Party’s continued attempts to dismantle the ACA, Monday’s announcement sure feels like a gift from Trump to his Democratic opponents.
The Party’s progressives in Congress, many of whom have been pushing for Medicare for All, have come out swinging to protect the ACA in the interim:
And many of the senators running for the Democratic presidential nomination have also weighed in:
Top Democratic leaders like Senator Charles Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi quickly promised to (again) fight any efforts to destroy the ACA. “Tonight in federal court, the Trump Administration decided not only to try to destroy protections for Americans living with pre-existing conditions, but to declare all-out war on the health care of the American people,” wrote Speaker Pelosi in a statement.
The ACA is, of course, a hugely flawed law that has nonetheless saved lives and helped many (myself included!) obtain necessary medical coverage. Even as it expanded coverage for some, its offers continues to be unaffordable and inadequate for many. As we face—again—the need to protect and defend people’s right to healthcare, it’s worth at the same time continuing to expand our political vision beyond the ACA, a point made by Sanders on Tuesday: