Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Tuesday said the Justice Department’s decision not to defend Obamacare against a state-driven lawsuit is a “legal position” — not a “policy position” — and that President Trump still feels sicker Americans deserve access to affordable health insurance.
Mr. Azar defended Mr. Trump after Senate Democrats highlighted the Justice Department’s position in a suit that says the “individual mandate” to hold insurance is no longer valid, since Congress zeroed out its penalties in the GOP tax bill.
Justice Department attorneys told a federal court in Texas to consider ordering that as of Jan. 1two popular parts of Obamacare will be invalid: that people with preexisting conditions must receive coverage, and that they cannot be charged more than healthier consumers.
“The position articulated by the attorney general is a constitutional and legal position, not a policy position,” Mr. Azar told the Senate Health Committee. “We share the view of working to ensure individuals with preexisting conditions can have access to affordable health insurance. The president has always shared that. We look forward to working with Congress under all circumstances toward achieving that.”
Democrats say the administration is exposing people with preexisting conditions to higher costs and failing to uphold its duty to defend the federal program, although refused to defend a law is not unprecedented.
The Trump administration says Obamacare’s framework is falling short of its goal to provide affordable coverage to everyone.
Mr. Trump is exploring ways to broaden the reach of cheaper, skimpier plans that don’t comply with Obamacare’s strict coverage rules, after his GOP allies in Congress failed to repeal and replace the law last year.
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