June 7 (UPI) — The U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday it won’t defend the Affordable Care Act against a legal challenge of its constitutionality.
In a brief filed in a Texas federal court, the Justice Department said the ACA’s individual mandate — which required most Americans to carry health insurance — can no longer be interpreted as a tax “because it will raise no revenue as Congress has eliminated the monetary penalty.”
The department argued the law’s guaranteed issue and community provisions, which protected consumers with pre-existing conditions, can’t be separated and must also be struck down when the individual mandate is eliminated in 2019
Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a three-page letter to House and Senate leaders for both parties, saying the Justice Department wouldn’t defend the individual mandate or the provisions, from a lawsuit filed by Texas and 19 other states.
Sessions said the department was unable to find any “reasonable arguments” for the constitutionality of the consumer protection provisions and the department adopted the position “with the approval of the president of the United States.”
The lawsuit led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, argued an earlier case against the ACA made it clear that tax penalty was an essential component of the law, and when the Supreme Court upheld the ACA the ruling stated “without the tax penalty, the mandate that individuals purchase health insurance was an unconstitutional exercise of federal power.”
The states also called for the entire law and all of its mandates to be eliminated, while the Justice Department argued some portions of the law could remain in place.
California and 15 other states also filed a brief Thursday to intervene and defend the ACA and its consumer protections.