Is This Obamacare’s Last Dance?

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter

President Donald Trump’s administration is taking a few more swipes at former President Barack Obama’s health care law.

A group of 20 state attorneys general filed a lawsuit in February in the wake of the individual mandate repeal, arguing Obamacare is no longer constitutional. Republicans repealed the requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance in the 2017 GOP tax reform bill. (RELATED: Trump’s Administration Rolls Out Plan For ‘Value Based’ Health Care)

The Justice Department responded to the lawsuit Thursday, telling a Texas judge that Congress’ individual mandate repeal does in fact render other Obamacare language unconstitutional.

The two Obamacare provisions in question are known as guaranteed issue and community ratings. Guaranteed issue is an Obamacare requirement that health insurers cannot bar someone based on pre-existing health status, race, gender, age or other factors. Community ratings is a similar rule, barring health insurers for charging higher premiums within a geographic region based on health status, age, race, gender and other factors.

Justice Department officials did not say the Obamacare should be entirely thrown out. The DOJ still believes the Obamacare state exchanges and Medicaid expansion should still exist, regardless of whether or not the individual mandate stands. (RELATED: Virginia Gov Signs Medicaid Expansion Budget)

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia signed a new budget Thursday that includes Medicaid expansion, making the state the 33rd to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.

The DOJ also said that court should not move forward with the state attorneys general request to halt Obamacare because the individual mandate is in effect until January 2019.

The states’ lawsuit would be the fifth Obamacare challenge to make its way to the Supreme Court since the law was first passed in 2010. Although, it is not a guarantee the case would make it that far.

Trump’s administration has taken a number of actions over the past year to undercut the Affordable Care Act (ACA) after Republicans in Congress were repeatedly unable to repeal and replace Obamacare in 2017.

Trump stopped funding for crucial subsidies, known as cost-sharing reductions, cut funding for both the Obamacare navigator program and open enrollment advertising. Additionally, the Trump administration cut Obamacare’s open enrollment period in half, leaving Americans who wanted to sign up for Obamacare with a shorter time frame to obtain coverage.

Despite the administration’s efforts, Obamacare is still getting an influx of new participants and retaining a fair amount of other users.

Over 3.2 million first-time Obamacare participants signed up for an ACA plan in 2018, according to CMS. Nearly 5.5 million actively sought to re-enroll in Obamacare.

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