Speed Reads

ObamaCare in Court

Justice Department argues the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate is unconstitutional

On Thursday, the Justice Department filed a brief in a federal court in Texas stating that it won't defend several provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

The Justice Department said the ACA's requirement that individuals have health insurance is unconstitutional, because under the tax law President Trump signed last year, effective in 2019, there will no longer be a penalty for the individual mandate. The department also said that the provision barring insurance companies from denying coverage for people who have pre-existing conditions should be invalidated. In February, 20 states sued the federal government, challenging the law's constitutionality.

The decision "is a rare departure from the Justice Department's practice of defending federal laws in court," The Associated Press notes, and three career Justice Department lawyers withdrew from the case right before the filing, replaced by two political appointees. "I find it impossible to believe that the many talented lawyers at the department could not come up with any arguments to defend the ACA's insurance market reforms, which have made such a difference to millions of Americans," said former Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, calling this "a sad moment." Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Congress in a letter on Thursday that President Trump approved the legal strategy.