Democrats are coming out swinging against the Department of Justice's move to back a lawsuit brought forth by a group of Republican attorneys general against the Affordable Care Act that, if successful, could result in the dismantling of some of the most significant parts of the health care law.
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The Senate's top Democrats fired off a letter to President Trump on Friday to denounce the decision and urged Trump's Justice Department to reverse course.
"Mr. President, it is time to stop the sabotage. We are a country of laws, and the law must be respected, defended and enforced regardless of the person occupying the Oval Office," the senators wrote.
The letter was signed by Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Dianne Feinstein of California, Patty Murray of Washington, and Ron Wyden of Oregon.
The Texas-led lawsuit filed earlier this year claims that Congress’ decision to eliminate the individual mandate penalty, which goes into effect in 2019, should render the entire health care law invalid.
“Once the heart of the ACA—the individual mandate—is declared unconstitutional, the remainder of the ACA must also fall,” the lawsuit alleges.
In a court filing late Thursday, the Trump administration is specifically urging the Texas federal court to strike down two provisions from the ACA: one that requires insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions, and the other that prevents insurers from charging individuals a higher premium because of their pre-existing condition.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions claimed it's “because otherwise individuals could wait until they become sick to purchase insurance, thus driving up premiums for everyone else.”
But the administration said the rest of the law, including Medicaid expansion, can remain in place.
"The American public widely supports retaining protections for pre-existing conditions. We implore you to listen to the voices of career Justice Department lawyers, as well as concerned families, patients, doctors and hospitals that want to retain these protections, and start working with Democrats to strengthen our health care system instead of trying to tear it down," the senators said in their letter to Trump.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is vowing to fight the move in court.
“The lawsuit initiated by Texas is dangerous and reckless and would destroy the ACA as we know it. It would leave millions of Americans without access to affordable, quality healthcare. It is irresponsible and puts politics ahead of working families,” Becerra said in a statement.
“We won’t sit back as Texas and others try yet again to dismantle our healthcare system. Our coalition of states and partners across the country will fight any effort to strip families of their health insurance," he said.
Becerra estimated that the states that back the health care law could lose half a trillion dollars in health care funding if the suit is successful. In April, he and 16 attorneys general sought to intervene in the federal lawsuit. The motion to intervene was granted last month.