May 7, 2020

Obamacare, Trump and the Supreme Court, explained


“We’re not doing anything. In other words, we’re staying with the group, with Texas and the group,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

As it stands now, the Trump administration position fully backs the lawsuit filed by a group of Republican states seeking to throw out all of Obamacare, the landmark 2010 health reform law.

Q. Is Obamacare safe?

A. For now, it is. But its fate is in the hands of the Supreme Court, which agreed to consider the case next term. The justices are likely to hear the case in the 2020-21 session, but a decision is not expected until 2021, after the November election.

Until then, the Trump administration has stressed that the law remains in effect as the case proceeds through the legal system.

Trump says administration will continue legal fight to eliminate Obamacare

Do I still have coverage?

A. Yes. Some 11.4 million Americans signed up for Obamacare policies for 2020, and roughly 12.5 million people were enrolled in Medicaid expansion.

And millions more are expected to turn to Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act exchanges for coverage as they lose their jobs — and employer-based health insurance — amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Q. Didn’t the Trump administration want to keep part of the law?

A. The administration’s position has shifted multiple times since the lawsuit began in early 2018. Initially, it argued that along with the individual mandate, key provisions that protect Americans with pre-existing conditions should fall, but most of the law could remain.
In a dramatic reversal early last year, the Justice Department said the entire Affordable Care Act should be invalidated. Several months later, the administration argued before a federal appeals court that the law should only be struck as it applies to the coalition of 18 Republican-led states that brought the challenge.

Q. How political is this move? Will it work for Trump?

A. The President has been consistent in calling for the end to Obamacare, but there is also no White House plan to replace portions such as coverage for those with pre-existing conditions should the law be declared unconstitutional.

Nevertheless, maintaining the same position will prevent Trump from being flagged as a flip-flopper trying to soften the administration’s stance on health care before the election.

Q. What about other efforts to kill it?

A. After promising for years to repeal Obamacare, Trump and Republican lawmakers in Congress failed to do so in 2017, even though the party controlled both chambers and the White House.

Since he took office, Trump’s administration has chipped away at the law by shortening the sign up period, shrinking spending on advertising and enrollment assistance and broadening the appeal of alternatives to Obamacare plans.

Q. I thought the Supreme Court already said it was legal, what’s the difference now?

A. In 2012, the court rejected a broad challenge to the law and upheld the individual insurance mandate based on Congress’ taxing power.

This new dispute began after the Republican-led Congress in 2017 cut the tax penalty to zero for those who failed to obtain insurance. Texas and other GOP-led states sued, arguing that because the individual mandate is no longer tied to a specific tax penalty, it is unconstitutional. The states also say that because the individual mandate is linked to many other Obamacare provisions, invalidating it should doom the entire law, including protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Q. What’s the alternative plan?

A. Trump has long promised to unveil an alternative to the Affordable Care Act but has yet to do so.

Soon after tweeting last year that Republicans were developing “a really great” health care plan, the President said that he would not push for a vote until after the 2020 elections.
Supreme Court hears Obamacare contraceptive mandate challenge via telephone

Q. If former Vice President Joe Biden wins in November, does the lawsuit end?

A. A Democratic president would almost certainly withdraw the administration from the case and possibly join the coalition of current Democratic-led states and the Democratic-led House of Representatives defending the law.

However, the group of Republican-led state attorneys general would remain challengers in the lawsuit and are not likely to drop the case just because Biden won the election.



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