Democratic Committee Leaders Demand Answers for Trump Administration's Latest Attack on the ACA and Rule of Law

Jun 13, 2018
Press Release
Administration’s Decision Could Once Again Subject 130 Million Americans with Pre-existing Conditions to Discrimination

WASHINGTON, DC – Four House Democratic committee leaders wrote to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma today demanding answers on their involvement in the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) decision to ask a federal court to strike down key patient protections in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that prevent discrimination against approximately 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions. Specifically, the four leaders want to know if HHS or CMS conducted any analysis on the impact this decision will have on our health care system prior to DOJ’s announcement, and if they have developed any contingency plans for the chaos and confusion that would result if DOJ prevails.

The letter was signed by Ways and Means Ranking Member Richard Neal (D-MA), Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Judiciary Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Education and the Workforce Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA). 

Last week, the DOJ announced that it would not defend two key patient protections included in the ACA known as guaranteed issue, which guarantees coverage regardless of health status, and community rating, which prohibits insurers from charging higher premiums based on health status.  

In declining to defend these protections in the Texas v. United States lawsuit, the Trump Administration is seeking to invalidate these critical patient protections, and once again subject tens of millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions to the discrimination they faced before the ACA,” the four Democratic Committee leaders wrote to Azar and Verma.

The Democratic committee leaders wrote that the brief broke with DOJ’s longstanding tradition of defending laws enacted by Congress regardless of whether it supports the underlying policies, and constitutes yet another attempt by the Trump Administration to sabotage the ACA at the expense of consumers across the nation.  

The decision to decline to defend the law in Texas v. United States is just the latest attempt to accomplish what the Administration and the Republican Congress failed to accomplish through legislation – to repeal the ACA and take health care away from millions of Americans,” the four Democrats continued in their letter to Azar and Verma. “The potential implications of DOJ’s decision raise serious concerns regarding how HHS and CMS under President Trump intend to fulfill their obligations ‘to enhance the health and well-being of all Americans.’”

Already, the Administration’s efforts to sabotage the ACA, including the Republican tax bill and HHS’ ongoing efforts to erode consumer protections through regulatory actions, are driving up the uninsured rate and costs for consumers across the nation.  According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Republican tax scam alone will lead to three million more Americans uninsured, as well as 15 percent premium increases for individuals in the individual market. The legal uncertainty stemming from President Trump’s latest decision will exacerbate the instability and double-digit premium hikes that Americans are already facing due to this Administration’s ongoing sabotage of our health care system.

The four Democratic committee leaders are requesting HHS and CMS to provide them with a series of documents by Wednesday, June 27, including:

• Analysis HHS and/or CMS has performed to evaluate the effects that the elimination of the guaranteed issue and/or community rating provisions of the ACA will have on cost and coverage of health insurance in the United States. 
• Analysis HHS and/or CMS has performed to evaluate the effects that the elimination of the guaranteed issue and/or community rating provisions of the ACA will have on individuals with pre-existing conditions, and their access to affordable health insurance.
• All relevant documents and communications regarding HHS’s contingency planning for the possibility that these coverage changes could go into effect as early as January 1, 2019.
• All communications between HHS and/or CMS officials and officials from DOJ regarding the DOJ decision not to defend the guaranteed issue and/or community rating provisions of the ACA.

The letter is available HERE.