The Department of Justice (DOJ) has reversed course and is now supporting a federal district judge's decision that declared the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.
The DOJ recently sent a letter to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans asking the court to uphold the lower court's decision to rule the act, known as Obamacare, invalid.
"The Department of Justice has determined that the district court's comprehensive opinion came to the correct conclusion and will support it on appeal," said Kerri Kupec, spokesperson for the Justice Department.
The "United States is not urging that any portion of the district court's judgment be reversed," the department added.
In December, District Court Judge Reed O'Connor's ruled the entire health care law to be overturned. The lawsuit was established by a coalition of Republican-led states. Since Congress had previously removed the penalty for not signing up for Obamacare, the judge agreed with the coalition that the requirement people buy insurance or pay a penalty was no longer constitutional. As a result, O'Connor deemed the whole law to be unconstitutional.
"The Justice Department's indication that it will defend Judge O'Connor's judgment in its entirety suggests it now believes the entire statute must fall, from coverage for pre-existing conditions to the Medicaid expansion, and everything in between," said Steve Vladek, a law professor at the University of Texas, to USA Today. "That's a major shift in position, and would have enormous consequences if ultimately accepted by the courts."
House Democrats, backed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), are slated to introduce new legislation to broaden and enhance the Affordable Care Act.
"This week, we will take another step forward to strengthen protections for pre-existing conditions, reverse the GOP's health care sabotage, and lower Americans' health costs," Pelosi said. "And we will continue to fight for bold action to lower prescription drug prices."
According to Pelosi's office, the new bill would increase aid for lower income participants, make more middle-class people eligible, and fix a "family glitch" problem which prevents certain consumers from joining.
The legislation is expected to include measures that would grant money to help insurers pay the bills of their most expensive patients, and restore advertising and outreach budgets removed by the Trump administration.
Though expected to pass the Democrat-controlled House, the bill will immediately fail in the Republican-controlled Senate. Some Democrats hope bipartisan support on certain elements could make it into law.
The Associated Press reports that 11.4 million people have signed up for coverage this year, a decline of more than 500,000 from 2018. Democrats fear that unless younger, healthier people sign up, already-high premiums will grow exponentially.