CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. Department of Justice said Monday evening it supports a federal judge’s ruling that the federal health care law is unconstitutional, another act by the Trump administration targeting the statute.
The decision came after several states that day issued a challenge to the decision; Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas ruled in December “Obamacare” and its individual mandate are unconstitutional. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is now considering the matter, which will likely go before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Twenty states, including West Virginia, argued last year the law is no longer constitutional because of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which eliminated the provision requiring people to purchase health insurance.
“The Department of Justice has determined that the district court’s judgment should be affirmed,” three Justice Department attorneys wrote. “Because the United States is not urging that any portion of the district court’s judgment be reversed, the government intends to file a brief on the appellees’ schedule.”
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 12.7 million people nationwide have health insurance because of the law’s Medicaid expansion, including 183,100 West Virginians (the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources tweeted Monday 159,069 people are enrolled in the state’s Medicaid expansion program). The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Monday 11.4 million people enrolled in the health care exchange during the most recent open enrollment period, a decline of 300,000 people compared to the previous period.
The Department of Justice has refused to defend “Obamacare” in court. During his confirmation hearing in January, Attorney General William Barr said he would be willing to reconsider the position.
During the 2018 Senate race in West Virginia, Manchin criticized Republican candidate and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey for getting the state involved in the legal proceedings.
“I believe this should be viewed as opening a debate to get rid of all the parts of ‘Obamacare’ that are highly problematic, and then sit down and have a conversation and say let’s have something that works much better for West Virginia,” Morrisey told MetroNews earlier this month.
President Donald Trump has spoken favorably of the December ruling, saying at this month’s Conservative Political Action lawmakers from both parties should draft a better law. Republicans attempted multiple times in 2017 to replace the current law but failed.
Twenty-one attorneys general on Monday filed an appeal to the December verdict, arguing the individual mandate was not essential for the law’s enforcement.
“This lawsuit is as dangerous as it is reckless. It threatens the healthcare of tens of millions of Americans across the country — from California to Kentucky and all the way to Maine,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a press release.
“The Affordable Care Act is an integral part of our healthcare system. For the last nine years, it has ensured that seniors, young adults, women, children and working families have access to high-quality affordable care. It has prevented insurance companies from discriminating against 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions. Because no American should fear losing healthcare, we will defend the ACA every step of the way.”