Republicans Christmas gift to the nation: blowing up America’s health care system

I warned you about The evil GOP bastards’ scheme for a back door repeal of ‘Obamacare’ in the courts when the case was filed back in February:

A part of the GOP’s “tax cuts for corporations and plutocrats” bill back in December was the under-reported repeal of the individual mandate, which didn’t actually repeal the coverage requirement — it only repealed the tax penalty provision.

This was part of the long game the evil GOP bastards play to deny Americans access to affordable health care. By removing the tax penalty, it allowed the state Attorneys General from 20 red states, including Arizona, to file a lawsuit (.pdf) attempting a back door repeal of ‘Obamacare” through the courts, rather than through Congress.

These evil GOP bastards assert the legal sophistry that the individual mandate is now unconstitutional — after the GOP’s malicious sabotage of “Obamacare” in the tax bill – and now the rest of the ACA should fall as part of the GOP’s legal sophistry in court.

These Republican attorneys general went forum shopping to file their lawsuit in a district with a conservative activist judge with a history of  “intensely political” opinions, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth, Texas.

During the litigation, the Trump administration abandoned the defense of the Affordable Care Act, Trump administration won’t defend ACA in case brought by GOP states, leading to a coalition of Democratic state attorneys general to intervene to defend the Affordable Care Act.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor delayed issuing his opinion until after election day — a highly political move — an election in which Republican candidates across the country falsely misled voters that they are in favor of the “Obamacare” mandates requiring insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions, knowing full well that this lawsuit would eliminate those very protections.

On Friday Judge Reed O’Connor finally issued his Opinion (.pdf) giving the Republican attorneys general exactly what they expected to get from this hand-picked conservative activist judge. Texas Judge Strikes Down Obama’s Affordable Care Act as Unconstitutional:

A federal judge in Texas struck down the entire Affordable Care Act on Friday on the grounds that its mandate requiring people to buy health insurance is unconstitutional and the rest of the law cannot stand without it.

The ruling was over a lawsuit filed this year by a group of Republican governors and state attorneys general. A group of intervening states led by Democrats promised to appeal the decision, which will most likely not have any immediate effect. But it will almost certainly make its way to the Supreme Court, threatening the survival of the landmark health law and, with it, health coverage for millions of Americans, protections for people with pre-existing conditions and much more.

In his ruling, Judge Reed O’Connor of the Federal District Court in Fort Worth said that the individual mandate requiring people to have health insurance “can no longer be sustained as an exercise of Congress’s tax power.”

Accordingly, Judge O’Connor, a George W. Bush appointee, said that “the individual mandate is unconstitutional” and the remaining provisions of the Affordable Care Act are invalid.

* * *

The 20 plaintiff states, led by Texas, argued that with the penalty zeroed out, the individual mandate had become unconstitutional — and that the rest of the law could not be severed from it.

The Justice Department’s response to the case was highly unusual: though it disagreed with the plaintiffs that the entire law should be struck down, it declined this year to defend not just the individual mandate, but the law’s provisions that protect people with pre-existing conditions. That prompted a coalition of 16 states and the District of Columbia, led by California, to intervene and defend the law.

On Friday night, a spokeswoman for Xavier Becerra, the California attorney general, said California and the other defendant states would challenge the ruling with an appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.

“Today’s ruling is an assault on 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, on the 20 million Americans who rely on the A.C.A.’s consumer protections for health care, on America’s faithful progress toward affordable health care for all Americans,” Mr. Becerra said in a statement. “The A.C.A. has already survived more than 70 unsuccessful repeal attempts and withstood scrutiny in the Supreme Court.”

* * *

President Trump, who has consistently sought the law’s repeal and has weakened it through regulatory changes, posted a response to the ruling on Twitter late Friday night: “As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster! Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions.”

The White House, in a separate statement late Friday, said: “We expect this ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court. Pending the appeal process, the law remains in place.”

If Judge O’Connor’s decision ultimately stands, about 17 million Americans will lose their health insurance, according to the Urban Institute, a left-leaning think tank. That includes millions who gained coverage through the law’s expansion of Medicaid, and millions more who receive subsidized private insurance through the law’s online marketplaces.

Insurers will also no longer have to cover young adults up to age 26 under their parents’ plans; annual and lifetime limits on coverage will again be permitted; and there will be no cap on out-of-pocket costs.

Also gone will be the law’s popular protections for people with pre-existing conditions, which became a major talking point in the November midterm elections, as Democratic candidates constantly reminded voters that congressional Republicans had tried to repeal the law last year.

Many Democrats successfully centered their midterm campaigns on protecting the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandates for pre-existing conditions.

David Nir at Daily Kos makes the point that It sure looks like the judge who just struck down Obamacare waited until after Election Day:

Healthcare, of course, was the number one issue in 2018, and Democrats pounded Republicans everywhere over their burning desire to gut the Affordable Care Act. In response, all of the Republican candidates in all of these states—and across the country—naturally promised to protect those with pre-existing medical conditions, even though all of those promises were a lie, because they or their allies were all supporting this lawsuit.

Had O’Connor ruled before Election Day, these Democratic attacks would have been even more potent. And he certainly should have. The Republican plaintiffs characterized their suit as a legal emergency, telling the judge in April that “the sooner an order issues enjoining the A.C.A., the better, both so that all states and individuals can prepare to operate and live without the A.C.A.”

But despite the apparent urgency, O’Connor didn’t act. Not in May. Not in June. Not in July. Not in September. Certainly not in October. And definitely not in November.

In fact, he waited until December, after the elections and every runoff had concluded, to issue this bombshell of an abomination of a ruling. Even though, again, the Republican attorneys general who brought the suit said it was of the utmost important that a ruling be made as quickly as possible.

But O’Connor—an appointee of George W. Bush—spared them all. So now it’s up to us to make them pay.

Back to the New York Times:

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan research organization, estimates that 52 million adults from 18 to 64, or 27 percent of that population, would be rejected for coverage under the practices that were in effect in most states before the Affordable Care Act.

“If this Texas decision on the ACA is upheld, it would throw the individual insurance market and the whole health care system into complete chaos,” Larry Levitt, a senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, wrote on Twitter. “But, the case still has a long legal road to travel before that’s an immediate threat.”

Democrats immediately attacked the ruling as absurd. Representative Nancy Pelosi of California promised that when the party took control of the House next month, with her as speaker, it would “move swiftly to formally intervene in the appeals process to uphold the lifesaving protections for people with pre-existing conditions and reject Republicans’ effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act.”

The ruling came a day before the end of the fifth open enrollment season for Affordable Care Act coverage in most states, one in which sign-ups for “Obamacare,” as the coverage sold through the law’s marketplaces is known, have declined so far by about 12 percent compared with last year — due to repeated GOP sabotage efforts.

Let’s be clear: Republicans do not believe that access to health care is a fundamental human right. They believe access to health care is limited to those who can afford to pay for it, a privilege of wealth. If you cannot afford health care, well too bad for you. The GOP health care plan is, to paraphrase Ebeneezer Scrooge, “perhaps you should die and decrease the surplus population.” It is a political party defined by its culture of cruelty.

This legal action is going to backfire on Republicans. Healthcare was the number one issue in 2018, and led to a “blue wave” midterm election. This is only going to give impetus to the new Democratic House to take up the various proposals to repair the damage done to the health care system by GOP sabotage over the last eight years and to expand coverage.

Sarah Kliff and Dylan Scott review the 8 plans for universal health care. Here’s how they work.

The battle lines are drawn. It’s time to choose sides. This is war, and the evil GOP bastards must be defeated next year.





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