GOP states, Justice Department argue against immediate review of ‘Obamacare’ case

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Republican states and the U.S. Department of Justice want the Supreme Court to reject a request to consider the legal challenge to the federal health care law before the court’s current term ends.

Eighteen states — including West Virginia — and the department filed two separate briefs Friday in response to petitions that Democratic states and the House of Representatives filed last week regarding “Obamacare” and an appellate court’s verdict.

The Democratic parties requested justices consider the matter and issue a ruling before the court’s term ends in late June.

The Supreme Court on Monday asked for responses from Republican states and the Trump administration, who are arguing the entire health care law should be nullified; the GOP group has said Congress’ zeroing out of the individual mandate penalty in the 2017 tax law makes the health care statute unconstitutional.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in December struck down the individual mandate, but asked a lower court to determine which parts of “Obamacare” are separable from the provision.

Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote in the Justice Department brief the appeals court’s ruling still leaves most of the Affordable Care Act in place.

“Rather than intervene to interrupt that process and decide the validity and severability of the ACA’s provisions in the first instance — in an interlocutory posture, without the benefit of a decision from the court of appeals on that issue — this Court should defer any review pending a final Fifth Circuit decision,” Francisco argued.

The Democratic states and the House have argued the December verdict created a “cloud of uncertainty” on health care, yet the Republican states — led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — said that argument is not enough to justify a Supreme Court review.

“The district court has stayed its judgment, and that stay remains in place today,” Paxton noted.

The Department of Justice announced last March it agreed with the original December 2018 decision by Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas. O’Connor’s court will be responsible for reviewing the law.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Republicans in the state Legislature announced Tuesday a bill to protect coverage for pre-existing conditions. The West Virginia Healthcare Continuity Act would prohibit restricting insurance enrollment because of a pre-existing condition.

Morrisey previously told MetroNews he wants protections in place for pre-existing conditions as well as individuals needing Medicaid coverage, but he supports ending “Obamacare” because of increasing premiums.

Four of the nine Supreme Court justices must vote in favor of accepting a case for it to happen. Five justices have to approve expediting the process.

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