Despite pandemic, Trump administration urges end to ACA

RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR and MARK SHERMAN

WASHINGTON (AP) — In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration on Thursday urged the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

The administration's latest high court filing came the same day the government reported that close to half a million people who lost their health insurance amid the economic shutdown to slow the spread of COVID-19 have gotten coverage through HealthCare.gov.

The administration's legal brief makes no mention of the virus.

Some 20 million Americans could lose their health coverage and protections for people with preexisting health conditions also would be put at risk if the court agrees with the administration in a case that won't be heard before the fall.

In the case before the Supreme Court, Texas and other conservative-led states argue that the ACA was essentially rendered unconstitutional after Congress passed tax legislation in 2017 that eliminated the law’s unpopular fines for not having health insurance, but left in place its requirement that virtually all Americans have coverage.

After failing to repeal “Obamacare” in 2017 when Republicans fully controlled Congress, President Donald Trump has put the weight of his administration behind the legal challenge.

If the health insurance requirement is invalidated, “then it necessarily follows that the rest of the ACA must also fall," Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote Thursday.

The Trump administration’s views on what parts of the ACA might be kept or replaced if the law is overturned have shifted over time. But in legal arguments, it has always supported getting rid of “Obamacare” provisions that prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against people on account of their medical history.

Nonetheless, Trump has repeatedly assured Americans that people with preexisting conditions would still be protected. Neither the White House nor congressional Republicans have specified how.

The new sign-ups for health coverage come from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The figures are partial because they don't include sign-ups from states that run their own health insurance marketplaces. Major states like California and New York are not counted in the federal statistics.

An estimated 27 million people may have lost job-based coverage due to layoffs, and it's unclear what — if anything — they're turning to as a fallback. People who lose employer health care are eligible for a special sign-up period for subsidized plans under the Obama-era law. Many may also qualify for Medicaid.

The Trump administration has been criticized for not doing as much as states like California to publicize these readily available backups. In response, administration officials say they have updated the HealthCare.gov website to make it easier for consumers to find information on special sign-up periods.

Thursday's report from the government showed that about 487,000 people signed up with HealthCare.gov after losing their workplace coverage this year. That's an increase of 46% from the same time period last year.

More From

  • Austin Cindric completes Xfinity sweep at Kentucky Speedway

    Austin Cindric dominated Friday night to sweep the NASCAR Xfinity Series doubleheader at Kentucky Speedway. A night after racing to his first career oval victory in an overtime finish, the Team Penske driver was even stronger in the No. 22 Ford Mustang in the 300-mile capper. Cindric was third in the first stage, won the second and stretched it out in the final segment.

  • Asia Today: Australia Victoria state daily cases drop to 216

    The beleaguered Australian state of Victoria received a small amount of good news Saturday with health officials reporting 216 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, down from the record 288 the previous day. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said a man in his 90s died overnight while 49 remained hospitalized, including 15 in intensive care. Victoria has recorded 3,560 confirmed cases, and Australia overall has had more than 9,000 with 107 deaths.

  • Professional bull riding set to welcome fans back into arena

    As bull riders attempted to hang on to their rides for eight seconds Friday night, they were encouraged by something they hadn’t heard in months - the cheers of a crowd. The Professional Bull Riders event ended a month-long competition that until Friday has played out before silent stands. It's a cautious step toward giving sports fans who have been cooped up for months a chance to leave their homes and watch a bull attempt to throw a man from its back as the rider tries to hold on.

  • Paik Sun-yup, major South Korean war hero, dies at 99

    Former South Korean army Gen. Paik Sun-yup, who was celebrated as a major war hero for leading troops in several battle victories against North Korean soldiers during the 1950-53 Korean War, has died. Born in 1920 in what is now North Pyongan province in North Korea, Paik graduated from a Japanese military academy in Manchuria when the Korean Peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule and was a lieutenant in the Japanese army during World War II. Paik returned to Korea after WWII, which also liberated the peninsula from Japanese rule, and joined the army of the U.S.-controlled South.