Answer: The Justice Department told a federal district court in Texas on Thursday that the health care law's key provision - a mandate requiring most people to buy insurance - is soon to be unconstitutional.
The Trump administration's stance is a rare departure from the Justice Department's practice of defending federal laws in court.
Besides urging nullification of the insurance-buying mandate itself, the new government position argued that two of the most popular features of the ACA must fall along with it: the requirement that insurance companies can not deny health insurance to individuals because of existing or pre-existing medical conditions, and the requirement that they can not charge higher insurance premiums based on existing or pre-existing conditions. In the case of health care, "fortunately we have 16 other [Democratic attorneys general] who are prepared to do it with us".
The president previous year issued an executive order directing federal agencies to make it easier to buy two alternatives to Affordable Care Act plans.
In the past, polls have found that both Republicans and Democrats favor protecting coverage for the tens of millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions. It's unlikely that the entire law will be struck down.More news: ‘Betrayal!’ Kudlow claims Trudeau ‘stabbed USA in the back’ with G7 comments
But Sessions also said that he agrees with the Department of Justice's opinion at the time of the 2012 case, that if the mandate is unconstitutional, it is separate from the ACA's other provisions, except those guaranteeing issuance of coverage in the individual and group market. They included provisions establishing health insurance exchanges, expanding Medicaid coverage and subsidizing premiums for lower-income people. The lawsuit, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, contends that without an individual mandate, the entirety of the ACA, commonly known as Obamacare, is unconstitutional.
Loosening the health law's rules on pre-existing conditions and on charging more to older adults is a key goal for the Trump administration.
The shift to health care is a notable strategy by which Democrats are hoping to remind American voters that Republicans are "deliberately sabotaging" the health care system, as Schumer put it in a letter he wrote to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier in the week.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of NY urged President Donald Trump to reverse the decision. "Zeroing out the individual mandate penalty should not result in striking important consumer protections, such as guaranteed issue and community rating rules that help those with pre-existing conditions". With President Trump's tax reform package in December 2017 removing the individual mandate requirement as a tax penalty, the last remaining reasoning to having a mandate fell apart, the suit argues.
Becerra is leading an effort by Democratic attorney generals from others states and the District of Columbia to defend the ACA against that lawsuit.
The Department of Justice has said it will not legally defend the ACA's restriction on insurers asking about pre-existing health conditions as a determinant for whether to offer coverage and at what rates, saying it believes the provision is unconstitutional.More news: Trump's G7 Communique U-Turn Destroys Partners' Trust - German Foreign Minister
"I urge Congressman MacArthur publicly demands that President Trump defends protections for pre-existing conditions and upholds the ACA immediately, so our premiums and medical bills don't skyrocket even further", Kim said in a statement responding to Thursday's decision.
Bailey's spokesman Corey Uhden said Friday that he wouldn't comment on the constitutionality of the ACA provisions.
Despite the Justice Department position, the Health and Human Services Department has continued to apply the health law.
The Justice Department took a different tack in a court filing on Thursday. But Martin S. Lederman, a Georgetown University law professor who was a Justice Department official in the Obama administration, called the mass withdrawal a likely sign of distress.
In parting company with the challenging states on their demand that all of the ACA be nullified, the Administration document said it was hypothetical speculation whether the entire program would collapse without the individual mandate and the related insurance coverage requirements. He added that lawyers can request to be reassigned from a particular case when they have moral or other "serious qualms" about the government's actions, but they "rarely" seek the court's permission to withdraw.
The Texas case will be decided first by O'Connor, a conservative appointee of President George W. Bush.More news: Forza Horizon 4 Revealed with Brand New Trailer