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Justice Department: We will not defend Obamacare

The Justice Department said Thursday it will not defend the Affordable Care Act in a lawsuit filed by Texas and 19 other states. The DOJ is asking federal court to strike down key provisions of the law.


The filing came in a lawsuit brought by the state of Texas and a coalition of other Republican-led states who have filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas challenging the constitutionally of the Affordable Care Act. The states argue that after Congress eliminated the penalty for the individual mandate last year, effective in 2019, it destabilized other sections of the law.

"In its filing the DOJ said that it agrees with Texas that the individual mandate is now unconstitutional and therefore it will not defend key provisions of the law in the suit," said Timothy Jost, of Washington and Lee University School of Law.

The provisions DOJ says should be invalidated are central to the ACA and would gut protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

Guaranteed issue requires insurers to offer coverage to everyone regardless of their medical history. Prior to the ACA, insurers often rejected applicants who were ill or had pre-existing conditions or only offered them limited coverage. Under another provision, the community rating provision, insurers were not allowed to set premiums based on a person's health history.

These two provisions, which have proved extremely popular with Americans, forced major changes to the health insurance industry.

While they provide major protections to those with pre-existing conditions, they also have pushed up premiums for those who are young and healthy. This group of people would have likely been able to get less expensive policies prior to Obamacare.

The two provisions, along with Obamacare's requirement that insurers offer comprehensive coverage, have been targets of Republicans seeking to repeal the law and lower premiums.

In announcing the lawsuit back in February, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said, "The US Supreme Court already admitted that an individual mandate without a tax penalty is unconstitutional. With no remaining legitimate basis for the law, it is time that Americans are finally free from the stranglehold of Obamacare, once and for all."

In court papers, lawyers for Texas asked a Texas judge to hold that the ACA is unlawful and enjoin its operation.

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