by Jordan Roberts
Former Director of Government Affairs, John Locke Foundation
It’s a good thing no other national news has happened this week because the Affordable Care Act is back in the news.
Back in December a U.S. District Court Judge agreed with 20 Republican Attorneys General that since the tax penalty for the individual mandate was zeroed out, this portion of the law was now unconstitutional. The plaintiffs in the case argued that without the individual mandate, the guaranteed issue and community rating provisions of the act should fall too:
The individual mandate penalty was lowered to zero by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the tax reform bill that was passed following the election of President Trump. In the original Supreme Court argument for Obamacare, the Obama administration said the individual mandate provision, the community rating provision, which prohibited insurance companies from charging sicker people higher rates, and the guaranteed issue provision, which prohibited insurers from denying people coverage with pre-existing conditions, were “inseverable” from each other meaning the law could not stand without all three of them.
However, as of last night, the Trump Administration now says instead of just striking down these provisions and letting the rest of the law stand, they now believe the entire law should be struck down.
The shift in position will no doubt send shock waves through the healthcare sector since the law governs so much of how patients receive care in America.
Politically, this is a risky move for the Trump administration. After the debacle of the “repeal and replace” debate in 2017 which yielded no meaningful reform, Republicans lost a lot of healthcare political capital.
Healthcare was the number one issue for voters in 2018, and it’s very likely 2020 will be no different. Given this recent position taken by the Trump administration, it seems like a gift to Democrats in the upcoming presidential election.
The ruling is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court where there will be a massive showdown between Republican-led states and Obamacare supporters. This puts congressional Republicans and the President in a tough spot for the upcoming election cycle.