Republicans are outraged ― outraged! ― that anyone would believe they don’t support protecting people with preexisting conditions from health insurance discrimination. They feel so strongly about this that they are doing absolutely nothing about it.
Tears are flowing heavily on Capitol Hill and the campaign trail as Republicans try to distance themselves from a pending Supreme Court lawsuit that would kill the Affordable Care Act and its guarantee that health insurance companies provide coverage to anyone regardless of medical history, and without extra charges for preexisting conditions.
“Every Republican agrees we’re going to protect preexisting conditions,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on CNBC last month. “One hundred out of 100 senators agree we’re going to protect preexisting conditions regardless of what happens with Obamacare.”
That would be good news if it were remotely tethered to reality. But congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump have been threatening those protections since “Obamacare” became law in 2010, and have yet to present an alternate plan to provide the same guarantee. And Senate Republicans begin hearings Monday on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, where she would be in a position to kill the ACA.
If they really care so deeply about this issue, they could make the threat to preexisting conditions disappear in a snap.
The legal argument against the ACA stems from Trump and the GOP-led Congress doing away with the fines people used to face under the law’s “individual mandate” in 2017. According to the Republican state officials who schemed up this legal challenge, the entire ACA became unconstitutional when the fines disappeared because the mandate itself didn’t.
Does it seem like that doesn’t make any sense? That’s because it doesn’t.
The entire basis for this lawsuit would vanish if Congress simply repealed the language in the ACA about the mandate. That’s it. No one will miss the mandate, which is toothless without the fines anyway. Plus, people hated it and, despite a broad consensus in 2010, it turned out not to be very effective anyway.
GOP lawmakers could do that in minutes if they wanted to.
GOP Lawsuit Threatens Obamacare
You wouldn’t know if by asking them about it, though. Then, you get blatant, easily debunked lies — from a party that has spent nearly 10 years trying to repeal the law that solved the preexisting conditions problem and never proposed a new way of achieving the same outcome.
“We will always protect patients with preexisting conditions,” Trump said last week. This from the man who has spent his presidency undermining the ACA and its provisions for people with preexisting conditions.
It was Trump who began allowing some insurers to discriminate against people with preexisting conditions. It’s Trump backing a Supreme Court case that would invalidate the entire ACA. It’s Trump who still hollers about Obamacare repeal and has no plan whatsoever about what he’d do if he gets it.
The GOP’s latest gambit is this lawsuit, brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) and other state officials and supported by the Trump administration. The plaintiffs seek to eliminate every word of the ACA. Because the federal government unusually decided not to defend a federal law, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and other Democratic state attorneys general are acting in defense. This is the third time a GOP lawsuit to kill Obamacare has reached the Supreme Court; the others failed.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case next month, a week after Election Day. The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Barrett’s nomination to be her replacement seemingly puts the ACA in greater jeopardy.
A ruling against the ACA would have far-reaching consequences, starting with an estimated 20 million people losing their health coverage. Medicaid expansion and health insurance subsidies would disappear, as would extra help for Medicare beneficiaries’ drug costs and a slew of other things.
And it would completely erase the law’s protections for people with preexisting conditions, subjecting them once again to an insurance market that doesn’t want them.
Sometimes, Republican lawmakers will brush off questions about the Supreme Court case by observing the lawsuit is likely to fail. “I actually don’t think the courts are eventually ever going to strike it down,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said last year when the case was working its way through the judiciary. They may be right, but that doesn’t excuse their empty rhetoric and inaction.
Trump has attempted to support his incessant lying about his position on preexisting conditions with phony actions.
Last week, he signed a meaningless executive order declaring it to be the “policy of the United States ... to ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions can obtain the insurance of their choice,” which is curious because the ACA is the policy of the United States on this matter already.
All this deception is understandable from a political standpoint. The Republican position that the ACA is all bad and that people with preexisting conditions should have fewer protections from insurance companies is unpopular. Also, the lies work on a lot of people.
But if any congressional Republicans want to turn their lies into the truth, they are free to make this ridiculous lawsuit go away.