The Trump administration told a federal court Thursday it won't defend Obamacare against a lawsuit that's trying to strike down most of the law. The first, known as guaranteed issue, requires insurers to offer coverage to everyone regardless of their health background.
They further cast the administration's brief, which was filed in federal court Thursday, as an "attack" on both the rule of law and the stability of the United States' health care system. In the new suit, California is leading a group of Democratically led states in defending the law.
The states argue that because Congress recently repealed a provision that people without health insurance must pay a fine, the requirement to have health insurance is unconstitutional because it is no longer considered a tax.
The chances for that argument succeeding are viewed with deep skepticism by legal experts, in part because Congress itself indicated that the rest of ObamaCare could still stand without the mandate when it moved to repeal the tax penalty a year ago. In the meantime, the existing law will likely remain.
The filing declares unconstitutional the so-called individual mandate-which requires nearly all Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a "tax" if they don't-and calls for several elements of ACA to be invalidated.
Congressional Republicans, who unsuccessfully sought to undo President Barack Obama's signature health care law throughout 2017, added language to the GOP tax bill that ended the controversial tax penalty for those who fail to obtain health care coverage.
Timothy Jost, law professor emeritus at Washington and Lee University in Virginia said the Trump administration is trying to persuade the court to do what it was unable to achieve in Congress a year ago - essentially, repeal key parts of the Obama health law.
"Justice Department attorneys don't withdraw from cases simply because the government is making an argument the lawyers think the courts should or would reject", he said.
Jost said it's telling that three career Justice Department lawyers refused to support the administration's position.
While Justice Department attorneys often advocate for laws they may personally disagree with, those three civil servants instead made a decision to exit from the case, which Bagley described as "almost unheard of".
The mandate introduced with Obamacare, the popular name for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), was meant to ensure a viable health insurance market by forcing younger and healthier Americans to buy coverage.