The Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to invalidate Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, which has provided health insurance to millions of Americans.
According to government lawyers, Obamacare became invalid when the previous Republican-led Congress axed parts of it.
Democratic challenger Joe Biden attacked the move, saying President Donald Trump had put millions of lives at risk during the coronavirus pandemic.
Health care will be a key battleground in this year’s presidential election.
Some 20 million Americans could lose their health coverage if the court overturns the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was introduced by President Barack Obama.
Obamacare’s popular provisions include banning insurers from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions and allowing children to stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26. Millions of low-income Americans were able to obtain insurance due to the act.
President Trump says the scheme costs too much and has promised a different plan to replace it, preserving some popular elements of the existing law but covering fewer people.
Under Obamacare, millions of people in the US must purchase health insurance or face a tax penalty.
In 2017, Congress removed a key plank of the policy, eliminating the federal fine for those who did not sign up, known as the “individual mandate”.
In its filing to the Supreme Court on June 25, the justice department argued “the individual mandate is not severable from the rest of the act”.
As a result, it said: “The mandate is now unconstitutional as a result of Congress’s elimination… of the penalty for non-compliance.”
President Trump cannot rely on Congress to complete the dismantling of Obamacare because the Democrats took control of the lower house in 2019.
Joe Biden, who wants to rally the public behind an expanded Affordable Care Act, said some coronavirus survivors could lose their comprehensive healthcare coverage if the act was overturned.
He said: “They would live their lives caught in a vice between Donald Trump’s twin legacies: his failure to protect the American people from the coronavirus, and his heartless crusade to take healthcare protections away from American families.”
In a statement on June 26, White House spokesman Judd Deere said Obamacare was “an unlawful failure”.
The statement said: “It limits choice, forces Americans to purchase unaffordable plans, and restricts patients with high-risk preexisting conditions from accessing the doctors and hospitals they need.”
The US has been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, recording 2.4 million confirmed Covid-19 cases and 122,370 deaths – more than any other country.
However, the true number of infections is likely to be 10 times higher than the reported figure, according to the latest estimate by health officials.
The Supreme Court is unlikely to hear the case before voters go to the polls in November, media report.
He said on July 18: “He is actively, actively trying to undermine the healthcare system in this country using millions of Americans as political pawns in a cynical game.”
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said the chamber would vote early next week on a motion for repealing ObamaCare only.
However, with at least three Republicans against the plan B, it is probably doomed, too.
Donald Trump backed the just-repeal-it plan on July 17 but changed his tune on the next day by proposing to simply let ObamaCare – which has failed to curb rising costs as insurance options dwindle – die on its own.
“As I have always said, let ObamaCare fail and then come together and do a great healthcare plan. Stay tuned!” the president tweeted.
Donald Trump has invited all Republican senators to discuss healthcare over lunch at the White House on July 19.
Without a replacement bill, analysts have estimated that millions of people would lose health insurance.
The GOP’s proposed alternative includes steep cuts to Medicaid, a healthcare program for the poor and disabled, removed the individual mandate requiring all Americans to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty and implemented a six-month lockout period for anyone who lets their health coverage lapse for more than two months.
Republicans view the 2010 legislation as an overreach of the federal government and say patients have less choice and higher premiums.
The GOP’s proposed alternative had kept key ObamaCare taxes on the wealthy, while imposing sharp cuts to healthcare for the poor and allowing insurers to offer less coverage.
Two Republican senators, Mike Lee and Jerry Moran, said the new legislation did not go far enough in repealing ObamaCare.
Jerry Moran said “we should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy” while for Mike Lee, “in addition to not repealing all of the ObamaCare taxes [the bill] doesn’t go far enough in lowering premiums for middle class families; nor does it create enough free space from the most costly ObamaCare regulations”.
Two senators – Rand Paul and Susan Collins – had already opposed the bill.
Rand Paul said the bill kept too much of the “ObamaCare taxes”, while Susan Collins expressed concerns about cuts to Medicaid.
With the two new opponents, Republicans – who hold 52 seats – no longer have enough votes to pass the bill in the 100-member Senate.
Moderate Republicans had also said the bill would have harmed some of their vulnerable constituents.
The non-partisan Congressional Budgetary Office (CBO) found the bill would have stripped 22 million Americans of health insurance over the next decade.
On top of that, polls had shown ObamaCare remained popular among Americans – a survey by the Washington Post and ABC News on July 17 found more than twice as many people preferred Barrack Obama’s program to the proposed alternative.
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