House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday as President Trump vowed to dismantle the Obama-era health care law in the ongoing legal battle.
In a press call with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Mrs. Pelosi called on the Trump administration to withdraw its lawsuit and urged states to expand Medicaid as Americans combat the coronavirus pandemic.
“What’s at stake are the provisions of the bill, but also the hope and confidence that instilled in the American people,” Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, said. “And as lives and livelihoods are being shattered by the coronavirus the protections of the Affordable Care Act are more important than ever. Every day we see how access to affordable health care is a matter of life and death.”
She noted that as of Wednesday there have been over 70,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case back in March, but hasn’t set a date for arguments.
Despite reports that the Justice Department was considering adjusting its stance on the lawsuit, Mr. Trump told reporters Wednesday that his administration was sticking with the attorney generals, led by Texas, that are arguing the entire ACA is unconstitutional because it no longer contains the individual mandate.
“Obamacare is a disaster but we’ve made it barely acceptable,” he said. “We want to terminate health care under Obamacare … We’re going to replace Obamacare.”
In 2017 as part of the tax code overhaul, Congress zeroed out the penalty for not having coverage, which Mr. Trump signed. That move, lower courts ruled, resulted in the law being unconstitutional.
A federal appeals court ruled last year that the mandate requiring all Americans to have insurance or pay a penalty runs afoul of the Constitution because it is no longer a tax following President Trump’s decision to zero out the fine.
But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, put off a thornier question — whether other parts of the law, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, can stand without the mandate. Which the Supreme Court will now have to determine.
The Supreme Court’s deadline for filings was on Wednesday.
Mr. Becerra said the coalition led by his state submitted its filings and is prepared to defend the 2010 law in court. He argued that if the ACA were to be struck down, uninsurance rates would skyrocket, people with preexisting conditions would be at risk, and rural hospitals would struggle more than they already do.
“We are defending the Affordable Care Act, because the Trump administration chose to walk away from its legal obligation to defend our federal law and the Affordable Care Act,” he said.
House Democrats formally rebuked the Trump administration’s stance back in April 2019, after they secured the majority in part by running on a health care focused platform in the 2018 midterms.
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