Amid the coronavirus pandemic that has sickened more than 2.4 million Americans, the Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to invalidate the Affordable Care Act, arguing the individual mandate has been made unconstitutional due to recent tax legislation.
Submitted near midnight Thursday, the 82-page brief was filed in support of an 18-state coalition led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton who argues that ACA, also known as Obamacare, was rendered unconstitutional by President Donald Trump's 2017 tax overhaul that removed "the only constitutional basis for the law: the tax penalty in Obamacare's individual mandate."
The Individual mandate, which mandates a minimum level of health insurance coverage with a tax penalty imposed against those who do not comply, was proved constitutional by the Supreme Court in 2012.
However, the coalition says that when Congress approved Trump's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that removed the penalty requirement, the individual mandate was made illegal, and they are asking the Supreme Court to scrap the whole legislation, threatening to remove coverage from tens of millions of Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic.
House Speak Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., described the Trump administration's filing of the brief late Thursday as "unfathomable cruelty."
"If President Trump gets his way, 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions will lose the ACA's lifesaving protections and 23 million Americans will lose their health coverage entirely," she said in a statement. "There is no legal justification and no moral excuse for the Trump administration's disastrous efforts to take away Americans' health care."
In the brief filed late Thursday, U.S. Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco said ACA consists of three provisions that were fashioned to work together and that Congress would not have adopted the other two provisions without the inclusion of the individual mandate.
"Nothing the 2017 Congress did demonstrates it would have intended the rest of the ACA to continue to operate in the absence of these three integral provisions," Francisco said in the filing. "The entire ACA thus must fall with the individual mandate."
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who leads a coalition of 20 states and the District of Columbia seeking to protect ACA, said in a statement that ACA has been "life-changing" for some amid the pandemic.
"Now is not the time to rip away our best tool to address very real and very deadly health disparities in our communities," he said.
Since the first cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in the country mid-January, more than 2.4 million people have fallen ill from the virus and some 124,000 have died.
The filing comes a day after House Democrats introduced legislation Wednesday to reinforce ACA through capping silver health insurance premiums at 8.5 percent of household income and authorizing Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.