A new fight over the future of the Affordable Care Act burst onto the Capitol Hill agenda on Tuesday morning, as Democrats tried to move past the Mueller report and pounce on the Trump administration’s legal motion to have President Barack Obama’s signature health care law invalidated by the federal courts.
“The Republicans did say during the campaign that they weren’t there to undermine the pre-existing condition benefit, and here they are, right now, saying they’re going to strip the whole Affordable Care Act as the law of the land,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California told reporters, just hours before Democrats were to unveil their own plan to lower costs and protect people with pre-existing conditions.
For Democrats, the Justice Department motion to invalidate the health law could not have come at a more opportune time. With the special counsel’s report failing to find a criminal conspiracy between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia’s efforts to influence the election, Pelosi was already pressing to move her party back to the kitchen-table issues Democrats believe will shape the 2020 campaign.
The Democratic offensive came the morning after the Justice Department asked a federal court to strike down the law in its entirety. The administration had previously said that the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions should be struck down, but that the rest of the law, including the expansion of Medicaid, should survive.
If the appeals court accepts the Trump administration’s new arguments, millions of people could lose health insurance, including those who gained coverage through the expansion of Medicaid and those who have private coverage subsidized by the federal government.
“The Justice Department is no longer asking for partial invalidation of the Affordable Care Act, but says the whole law should be struck down,” Abbe R. Gluck, a law professor at Yale who has closely followed the litigation, said Monday. “Not just some of the insurance provisions, but all of it, including the Medicaid expansion and hundreds of other reforms. That’s a total bombshell, which could have dire consequences for millions of people.”