House Dems demand answers from HHS on DOJ's ObamaCare decision

House Dems demand answers from HHS on DOJ's ObamaCare decision
© Greg Nash

A group of House Democratic leaders are demanding answers from the Trump administration about the role the Department Health and Human Services (HHS) played in the Department of Justice’s decision not to defend key parts of ObamaCare in federal court.

The lawmakers asked HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma if their respective agencies conducted any analysis on the impact the decision will have on the country’s health-care system.

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The Justice Department wrote in a filing Friday that it would not defend ObamaCare's protections for people with pre-existing conditions, siding in large part with a challenge to the law brought by a coalition of Republican-led states.

The states, and the Justice Department, argue that Congress's repeal of the tax penalty associated with ObamaCare's individual mandate makes the law's protections for people with pre-existing conditions unconstitutional.

The letter was released ahead of a press conference by Democratic leaders reacting to the Justice Department's decision.

Democrats view health care as a winning issue for them in the November midterm elections, and the letter is the latest example of members pressing their perceived advantage.

It was signed by Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneFacebook takes down anti-NATO pages linked to Russia Overnight Health Care: Dem chair plans hearing on Medicare for all | Senate GOP talks drug prices with Trump health chief | PhRMA CEO hopeful Trump reverses course on controversial pricing proposal Dem chairwoman plans hearing on Medicare for all proposals MORE (N.J.), Ways and Means Committee ranking member Richard NealRichard Edmund NealOn The Money: Trump teases 'major announcement' Saturday on shutdown | Fight with Dems intensifies | Pelosi accuses Trump of leaking trip to Afghanistan | Mnuchin refuses to testify on shutdown impacts Mnuchin refuses to testify at hearing on shutdown impacts On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (Mass.), Judiciary Committee ranking member Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), and Education and the Workforce Committee ranking member Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottDems offer measure to raise minimum wage to per hour Hopes fade for bipartisan bills in age of confrontation House Dems to introduce minimum wage bill MORE (Va.).

By declining to defend ObamaCare's preexisting condition protections, “the Trump administration is seeking to invalidate these critical patient protections, and once again subject millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions to the discrimination they faced before [ObamaCare],” the Democrats wrote.

The decision “breaks with DOJ’s longstanding tradition of defending laws enacted by the United States Congress, and constitutes yet another attempt by the Trump Administration to sabotage the [Affordable Care Act] at the expense of consumers across the nation,” the letter said.