Federal judge strikes down Trump rule on group health plans

A federal judge struck down President Trump's rules governing association health plans (AHPs) on Thursday, Bloomberg News reported.

Judge John Bates at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia blocked the rules which would allow small businesses and individuals to band together to create group health plans. 

Bates in his ruling called it a clear effort to avoid following the rules of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

"The final rule is clearly an end-run around the ACA," Bates, a George W. Bush appointee, said in the ruling, according to Bloomberg.

"Indeed, as the president directed, and the Secretary of Labor confirmed, the final rule was designed to expand access to AHPs in order to avoid the most stringent requirements of the ACA," he added.

The legal challenge against AHPs was brought by nearly a dozen Democratic state attorneys general.

The administration had touted the new plans, which did not have to meet all of ObamaCare's requirements, as an effort to provide customers with cheaper insurance options. But Democrats derided them as junk insurance, which they feared were intended to pull healthier people off ObamaCare, weakening those plans.

Thursday's decision is the second blow in as many days to Trump's health care plans.

On Wednesday, another federal judge blocked plans approved by the administration to impose work requirements for some Medicaid recipients in Kentucky and Arkansas.

The two decisions also come right after the Department of Justice decided to back a legal effort to strike down ObamaCare, reigniting the fight over former President Obama's signature health care law.

Trump has made it clear over the past few days that he wants to make health care a central issue of the Republican agenda going into the 2020 campaign season.

The president said Thursday that a group of GOP senators are working on a "spectacular" replacement for ObamaCare.

The lawsuit has sparked controversy among Republicans who worry revisiting the issue will hurt them in the next election.

House Democrats say they will work to shore up the health care law. Democrats attacked Republicans over their efforts to undo ObamaCare and its protections on pre-existing conditions in their successful fight to retake the House in the 2018 midterms.