The political back-and-forth about the legal fight over the legality of the ACA continued this week, as top Democrats demanded documents on the Trump administration’s position in the matter.
The chairs of five House committees wrote in letters (PDF) to Attorney General William Barr and White House counsel Pat Cipollone that they had requested the documentation by April 22, but instead, the Department of Justice issued a brief to a federal appeals court detailing their position.
In the document, DOJ underscores its belief that the entire Affordable Care Act was invalidated when Congress repealed the individual mandate in 2017—though lawmakers kept the rest of the law intact.
Because of this, the congressmen express concern that there are “politically-motivated forces” in the administration dictating this position to the department.
“Given the grave consequences that would result if the Trump Administration's legal position were to prevail, it is Congress' responsibility as an independent and co-equal branch of government to understand how this decision was made,” they wrote, “including whether the president or anyone in the White House instructed the department to override its legal conclusions and take a position that would result in the loss of health insurance coverage for millions of Americans.”
They set a new deadline for the documentation to be submitted, May 24. If the administration does not comply, they said they would have “no choice but to consider alternative means” to obtain the information, signaling a willingness to subpoena Barr or Cipollone.
The case is on appeal after a Texas judge ruled that the ACA was now unconstitutional as a result of the mandate repeal. It’s likely that the Supreme Court will be tasked with making the final decision in the case—one that could have ripple effects to every corner of the healthcare industry.
The DOJ previously signaled its intent to support this position as well in a short letter to the court urging it to uphold the previous decision, and then used the brief to lay out its full legal arguments.
Democrats have roundly (and expectedly) criticized the decision, as have many healthcare groups, as many people depend on the Affordable Care Act exchanges and the Medicaid expansion allowed under the law for health coverage.
However, some in the industry also note that they’re adapting to the ongoing debate and that the legal case has become “noise” in their day-to-day work.
In the meantime, the other provisions of the ACA remain in effect as the legal case plays out. Oral arguments in the appeal are planned for July.