‘An act of unfathomable cruelty’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “an act of unfathomable cruelty.” The Trump administration’s move to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the midst of the worst pandemic in a century simply makes no sense as a matter of politics or public health.
In doing so, the Trump White House has just assured that the landmark health law that is providing coverage to 130 million Americans with preexisting conditions will be a significant issue in the November election.
Why the president would pick such a battle — especially in the absence of a plausible alternative to replace it — is inexplicable. Did he and his strategists somehow miss the message of the 2018 midterms, when the law was in the thick of the debate, and Democrats won big?
It’s doubly puzzling because the Trump administration is taking a more aggressive stance when the lawsuit brought by 20 Republican attorneys general was in trial court. At that point, the administration was focused on eliminating preexisting conditions rather than the entirety of the law. The case now going to the Supreme Court with the administration’s support ar
gues that the law became void when Congress eliminated a tax penalty for Americans who fail to buy insurance, commonly known as the individual mandate.
Did someone forget to remind President Trump that, despite his opposition to the individual mandate, he has repeatedly said he would defend a requirement for coverage of preexisting conditions?
Most important of all is the absurdity of peeling back access to health care during the coronavirus pandemic in which more than 125,000 Americans have died — and infections continue to surge in many states with neither a vaccine nor effective treatments in sight.
It is notable that the American Medical Association, along with many doctors and hospitals, opposes the lawsuit.
California has taken the lead among the 17 states that have come forward to defend the law.
“Now is not the time to rip away our best tool to address very real and very deadly health disparities in our communities,” state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement last week. “This fight comes at the most critical time. The death toll from the coronavirus today is greater than the death toll of the Vietnam War.”
The job losses from the shutdowninduced economic shock also must be considered. In fact, a new report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services showed 487,000 Americans enrolled on Healthcare.gov in April and May — a 46% increase from the previous year.
In his brief on behalf of the Trump administration, Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued that the absence of a tax penalty —upheld by the Supreme Court — unraveled the core of the law. He suggested the individual mandate was “inseverable” from the requirement on covering preexisting conditions.
His logic would be laughable if the stakes were not so serious.
“Nothing the 2017 Congress did demonstrates it would have intended the rest of the ACA to continue to operate in the absence of these ... integral provisions,” Francisco wrote.
Pure nonsense. If the thenrepublicancontrolled Congress had intended to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it would have done so. It lacked the votes. One vote, to be precise. Many will recall Sen. John Mccain’s pivotal thumbsdown vote in the early morning hours of July 28, 2017, to preserve the law commonly known as Obamacare.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, instantly signaled that he would be pressing the issue. He should. Americans need the law more than ever.