After failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act through the legislative process, the Trump administration signaled Monday that it is moving aggressively to scrap the law entirely in the courts—putting the healthcare of tens of millions of Americans at risk.
"I stood on the Senate floor while we hung onto healthcare for millions of Americans by a single vote. We won't back down. Healthcare is a basic human right, and we fight for basic human rights."
—Sen. Elizabeth Warren
In a legal filing as part of a Texas lawsuit led by Republican governors, the Trump Justice Department said it supports the complete repeal of the ACA, broadening its earlier position that only the law's protections for people with pre-existing conditions should be invalidated.
"Big shift in legal position from last year—with millions of lives in balance," noted Politico's Dan Diamond.
Progressives were quick to denounce the Trump administration's filing as "outrageous"—and further evidence that the U.S. must expand and strengthen its healthcare system by moving to Medicare for All.
"Never a better to moment to join up with Bernie Sanders to win Medicare for All," tweeted organizer Melissa Byrne.
— melissa byrne (@mcbyrne) March 26, 2019
DOJ has announced it won't defend ANY part of the ACA. This is the Trump admin's clearest attempt yet to not just sabotage, but to completely annihilate, the ACA, and by doing so, unleash chaos on our health care system and on millions of American lives. https://t.co/NgV97M8oRH
— Indivisible Guide (@IndivisibleTeam) March 26, 2019
"The Trump administration's support for overturning the entire Affordable Care Act is a reckless escalation of their war on healthcare that puts the care of millions of Americans at risk," Leslie Dach, chair of Protect Our Care, said in a statement.
"With his latest attack on our healthcare system, President Trump confirmed what we all know to be true: he and Republicans are hell bent to take away protections for more than 100 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, rip coverage away from millions, and raising costs for countless more," she added.
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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who is running for president in 2020, tweeted: "I stood on the Senate floor while we hung onto healthcare for millions of Americans by a single vote. We won't back down. Healthcare is a basic human right, and we fight for basic human rights."
I stood on the Senate floor while we hung onto health care for millions of Americans by a single vote. We won't back down. Health care is a basic human right, and we fight for basic human rights. https://t.co/JXv45TQIWN
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) March 26, 2019
As healthcare justice advocates and Democrats in Congress slammed the Justice Department's filing as immoral, experts shredded the Trump administration's position as legally dubious and questioned whether even conservative judges would accept it.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Timothy Jost—emeritus professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law—called the Justice Department's new position "crazy" and "legally untenable."
"I can't believe that even the 5th Circuit would take that position," Jost said. "It would be like invalidating the Interstate Highway System, causing chaos on an unimaginable scale. It's conceivable that the entire Medicare payment system would collapse."
"This is appalling," added Slate legal writer Mark Joseph Stern. "The district court's decision invalidating the entire ACA—the exchanges, Medicaid expansion, protection for preexisting conditions, everything—has been panned across the ideological spectrum. It is absurd and indefensible. And the DOJ wants it affirmed in full."
The Trump administration's broad assault on the ACA comes as support for replacing the current healthcare system with Medicare for All is surging in Congress, with over 100 House Democrats backing Rep. Pramila Jayapal's (D-Wash.) comprehensive single-payer bill.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a 2020 presidential candidate, is expected to unveil his own Medicare for All legislation in the Senate within the next few weeks.
"In this pivotal moment in American history, let us lead our country forward to guarantee healthcare as a right and not a privilege," Sanders wrote in a letter calling for "citizen co-sponsors" of his bill. "This is a struggle whose time has come."