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Primer: As The Trump Admin Tries To Kill Obamacare, States And Cities Begin To Fire Back With Suits

August 7, 2018 12:10 p.m.

Last week, the administration issued new rules about cheap, meager, short-term health insurance plans, increasing the cap for the amount of time a person could stay on such a plan from three months to a full year. The administration will also now allow those who buy these year-long plans to renew them for up to 36 months. That means consumers could hold insurance that is meant to be “short term” for up to three years.

The following day, four cities sued the Trump administration, claiming that moves like these were “sabotaging” Obamacare.

Columbus, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Chicago claim that the administration is violating the “Take Care” clause of the Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act by undermining the Affordable Care Act. The cities want the administration to restore funding for outreach and enrollment assistance, extend 2019’s open enrollment period, stop pushing the short-term plans, and instead encourage potential enrollees to buy comprehensive plans. The cities say the administration’s steps to undermine Obamacare and promote alternative, skimpier plans — which do not cover pre-existing conditions — burden city resources and have, in  the words of Columbus city attorney Zach Klein, “a detrimental effect on our families and on our budget.”

This latest lawsuit follows another, last month, brought by 12 Democratic attorneys general. It similarly argues that the administration violated the Administrative Procedures Act when it pushed another Obamacare alternative, association health plans. State regulators had been holding weekly calls with the administration to discuss these plans, but, Politico reports, a call scheduled for July 27 — one day after the suit was filed — was abruptly canceled by the Department of Labor, and the administration has stayed silent since then, avoiding giving states guidance.

Protecting Obamacare has become a flashpoint in Republicans’ battle to confirm President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, with groups including Planned Parenthood and Protect Our Care organizing pressure campaigns to urge swing-state senators to vote against Kavanaugh. In addition to likely having a hand in determining the future of Roe v. Wade, Kavanaugh could weigh in on millions of Americans’ health care should a lawsuit challenging Obamacare by 20 states — and joined by the administration — come before the Supreme Court. With the case heading to federal court in Texas, a victory for the states and administration, and an appeal to SCOTUS, looks likely.

NBC reported Tuesday that White House senior adviser Stephen Miller has put together a plan that would drastically limit legal immigrants’ ability to get green cards or citizenship if they have used benefits programs including Obamacare, food stamps and children’s health insurance. The administration is planning to issue a proposal for such a rule in the next few weeks. Advocates say it could effect 20 million people. It would not need congressional approval to become law.

Despite that, the Obamacare markets continue to sign up new insurers for 2019, and rate hikes, being unveiled state-by-state throughout the summer, look to be the lowest in years. Obamacare lives on.

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