The chairs of three House committees are seeking answers from the Trump administration on its new approach in the court battle over the legality of the Affordable Care Act.
Reps. Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland and Richard Neal, D-Massachusetts, sent letters to the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice on the matter, saying DOJ’s choice not to defend the healthcare law is “troubling.”
DOJ filed a letter to the Fifth Circuit appeals court in late March, urging it to upload a lower court decision striking down the Affordable Care Act. That ruling deemed the entire law unconstitutional as Congress as repealed the ACA’s individual insurance mandate.
“If the administration’s new legal position prevails and the entire ACA is struck down, there would be catastrophic implications for millions of American consumers and the United States healthcare system,” the representatives wrote.
In the letters, the three legislators request documents from the administration that explain its decision to back the judge’s ruling and say the DOJ’s position goes against the White House’s function of enforcing the law.
Instead, the move “appears to be driven by political considerations rather than considered legal arguments,” they said.
“The department owes Congress and the public an explanation as to why it refuses to enforce the law, and we request that you provide previously requested information to us and make certain individuals available for questioning,” they wrote.
Though the legal battle is expected to drag on, industry groups raised similar alarm at the possibility that the ACA could be fully tossed. The American Hospital Association called the DOJ’s letter “misguided,” with President Rick Pollack saying it was an “unprecedented” position that is “unsupported by the law or facts.”
And as it dispute plays out, there could be immediate impacts on insurers as they plan rate filings for 2020, experts said.
Attorney General William Barr was on the Hill to testify about the Justice Department’s 2020 budget plan, and during the House Committee on Appropriations hearing he said he just wants to see the courts “do their job.”
In the hearing, he seemed to suggest that the courts are unlikely to side with his agency.
“We’re in litigation. We have to take a position,” he said. “I’m just saying if you think it’s such an outrageous position, you have nothing to worry about.”