Now that a federal judge in Texas has handed down an order striking down the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s individual mandate — and, with it, all 900-plus pages of the health law — what happens next?
That’s the question facing Republican lawmakers whose colleagues are party to the lawsuit, which was filed by 20 GOP-led states.
The lawsuit aims to strike down very popular provisions of the ACA, including but not limited to protections for pre-existing conditions, the Medicaid expansion, the elimination of lifetime or annual limits on most benefits, allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ plans until the age of 26, closing a coverage gap in Medicare prescription drug plans, and even free flu shots.
While legal experts are nearly certain this lawsuit will die in the 5th Circuit or Supreme Court, anything is possible — especially with Obamacare litigation.
But Republican lawmakers, who yield all executive and legislative power right now, have yet to do anything tangible to ease the concerns of Americans who say they’re worried that they or their family members will lose quality coverage should the courts strike down Obamacare for good.
The Trump administration said it has a backup plan should the anti-Obamacare lawsuit prevail in court, but has yet to specify what exactly it is.
Health officials told Politico the administration has no contingency plan should the ruling be held in appeal. They are also debating if it’s worth coming up with a short-term plan, as the administration is currently enforcing the law.
When ThinkProgress reached out to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for more information, a spokesperson provided the following statement:
“The recent U.S. District Court decision regarding the Affordable Care Act is not an injunction that halts the enforcement of the law and not a final judgment. Therefore, HHS will continue administering and enforcing all aspects of the ACA as it had before the court issued its decision. This decision does not require that HHS make any changes to any of the ACA programs it administers or its enforcement of any portion of the ACA at this time. As always, the Trump Administration stands ready to work with Congress on policy solutions that will deliver more insurance choices, better healthcare, and lower costs while continuing to protect individuals with pre-existing conditions.”
The only GOP ideas made public so far is replace the ACA with something less comprehensive, which could present future problems for the president and his administration’s health policies. What that replacement plan is exactly is unclear. But the only GOP health bill that some Republicans are still coalescing around is the Cassidy-Graham bill that’ll block grant the health care system, but that doesn’t have the votes.
Even so, the president praised the judge’s decision and said he wants to work with Congress to replace the ACA.
“We have a chance, working with the Democrats, to deliver great HealthCare! A confirming Supreme Court Decision will lead to GREAT HealthCare results for Americans!” he tweeted on Monday.
Other Republicans view the lawsuit as an opportunity to try again to repeal and replace Obamacare repeal.
“Obamacare isn’t working for too many American families and individuals slammed with high premiums and few choices,” wrote experts with the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation on Monday. “Rather than looking for ways to keep Obamacare in place amid these legal challenges, lawmakers should pursue real solutions.”
Meanwhile, GOP congressional lawmakers are distancing themselves, likely hoping to avoid political fallout. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), for one, said he didn’t intend to “kill all of Obamacare” when he, along with most GOP members, voted to zero out the tax penalty for not having insurance in their tax bill last year.
.@JerryMoran says he did not intend to kill all of Obamacare when he voted to repeal the mandate penalty last year (which a judge now says means the whole law must go.) “This was not an outcome I predicted.”
— Alice Miranda Ollstein (@AliceOllstein) December 17, 2018
The other plan lawmakers produced is half-baked. Ten GOP senators introduced a bill ahead of the midterm elections that they said will protect people with pre-existing conditions but falls short of existing law. The bill wouldn’t even prohibit insurance companies from charging, for example, women more. So far none of the bill’s cosponsors have said they’d try to get a vote on the measure. Indeed, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) advised everyone not to worry.
Thank you, Senator. We are practical. We want an individual health insurance market that serves our young families, who are building their lives and our country. It can be done without the ACA’s complex subsidy system of income traps. Again, thank you. https://t.co/POpnLzurJv
— Doug Ommen (@DougOmmen) December 16, 2018
Meanwhile Democrats are trying to get lawmakers to intervene in the lawsuit. Congressional lawmakers could actually get rid of the lawsuit altogether, as Axios reports. Lawmakers could do one of three things: pass a law stating the mandate is separable from the rest of the 2010 law, pass a $1 penalty, or repeal the mandate altogether. While next year’s Democratic-majority House can do this, it’s just a political statement without Republicans’ help.