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'All-out war' on health care: Trump admin, Dems resume fight over Obamacare

Image: Supporters of the Affordable Care Act celebrate after a Supreme Cour
Supporters of the Affordable Care Act celebrate after a Supreme Court ruling upholding the law in Washington on June 25, 2015. Copyright Joshua Roberts Reuters file
Copyright Joshua Roberts Reuters file
By Allan Smith with NBC News Politics
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The Trump administration backs striking the law as House Democrats unveil legislation to shore it up.


The battle over health care is back.

The Trump administration on Monday supported the full dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, The Washington Post reported, even as Democratic leaders in the House plan to introduce legislation Tuesday to strengthen the health care law.

The Justice Department said in a filing with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that a lower court judge's ruling should be affirmed and the entire law invalidated.

In December, Judge Reed O'Connor of the U.S. District Court in Fort Worth, Texas, ruled the law's individual mandate "can no longer be sustained as an exercise of Congress's tax power" and that the remaining portions of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, are void too. O'Connor based his decision on changes to U.S. tax code passed by Republicans in 2017.

The Trump administration said in the filing, which was signed by three Justice Department attorneys, that it planned to file a brief in support of a Texas-led group of states seeking to have the entire law struck, the Post reported.

"The Department of Justice has determined that the district court's comprehensive opinion came to the correct conclusion and will support it on appeal," Kerri Kupec, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said in a statement to the newspaper.

The filing comes as Democrats try to fulfill campaign promises about health care — an issue that worked well for them in last year's midterm elections.

The bill being unveiled Tuesday would make more middle-class people eligible for subsidized health insurance through former President Barack Obama's health care law while increasing aid for those with lower incomes who already qualify," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office told the Associated Press. The legislation also would fix a longstanding affordability problem for some consumers, known as the "family glitch."

The legislation would provide money to help insurers pay the bills of their costliest patients and restore advertising and outreach budgets slashed by Trump's administration, helping to stabilize health insurance markets, the Associated Press reported. It would also block the administration from loosening "Obamacare" rules through waivers that allow states to undermine protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions or to scale back so-called "essential" benefits like coverage for mental health and addiction treatment.

The bill will get a vote in the House, but as a package it has no chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate. However, some elements have bipartisan support and may make it into law.

The action on health care comes as the government said Monday that 11.4 million people have signed up for health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act this year, a slight dip from 2018, the Associated Press reported.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found remarkably steady enrollment, down only about 300,000 consumers. Premiums stabilized, and more insurers came into the market. But the number of new customers fell by more than 500,000 — a worrisome sign for Obamacare backers, who say the Trump administration's cuts to the ad budget and congressional repeal of a requirement that people get insured will gradually eat away at program enrollment.

Responding to the Justice Department legal filing, Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement that the Trump administration "decided not only to try to destroy protections for Americans living with pre-existing conditions, but to declare all-out war on the health care of the American people.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted: "I thought @realDonaldTrump & AG Barr couldn't stoop any lower in trying to take health care away. But now they say millions gaining access to health care or protecting pre-existing conditions is unconstitutional. We will keep fighting to stop them."

A recent Fox News poll found that just 37 percent of registered voters approve of Trump's handling of health care compared with 52 percent who disapprove.

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