- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Trump administration is formulating a backup plan to ensure that Obamacare customers can still get insurance if a state-driven lawsuit is successful in striking down the 2010 health law.

Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, declined to give details of those plans or who might be covered, but the fact that planning is underway suggests how seriously the administration is taking the threat from the court case.

The contingency planning is all the more striking because the Trump administration has refused to defend Obamacare in the lawsuit, effectively siding with the states that say the law is now invalid after Congress last year eliminated the individual mandate requiring almost all Americans to hold insurance.

“We do have contingency plans. We want to make sure that people with preexisting conditions have protections, and we want to make sure that people have access to affordable coverage,” Ms. Verma told reporters at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative D.C. think tank.

She declined to elaborate, saying the fallback “may or may not be needed.”

A federal judge is expected to rule any day now on the lawsuit from 20 Republican-led states. They’ve asked for the judge to enjoin Obamacare.

It’s likely any decision against the law would be stayed pending an appeal to higher courts, though the case is considered the biggest remaining threat to the program.

Democrats during the midterm campaign repeatedly blasted Republicans for backing the lawsuit, saying if it’s successful it will strip coverage from people with pre-existing conditions.

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Wednesday found a majority of Americans — including 87 percent of Democrats and just over half of Republicans — would like to see their states restore those protections if the judge rules against Obamacare, “even if this means some healthy people may pay more for coverage.”

Obamacare’s defenders say rather than make alternate plans, the Trump administration should reverse itself and defend the health law in court.

“The best contingency plan for protecting American health care — and especially for those with pre-existing conditions — is for the administration to withdraw its support for this disastrous lawsuit and instead defend the law of the land,” Protect Our Care, a pro-Obamacare group, said in response to Ms. Verma’s comments.

President Trump recently told Axios, an online news outlet, he didn’t get a heads up from the Justice Department before it decided not to defend the law.

He says protections for people with preexisting conditions can be added in new legislation later, if the lawsuit is successful.

Democrats contend Republicans cannot be trusted after they attempted to repeal Obamacare in its entirety in 2017.

Democrats say they’ll push early in the new Congress, when they’ll control the House, to reaffirm Obamacare’s protections. They’ll also take steps to intervene in the Texas lawsuit and defend the law, just as Republicans did when President Obama’s administration refused to defend a law.

House Democrats will also have the ability to conduct oversight of the Trump administration.

Ms. Verma said her agency will do its best to respond to oversight requests from Congress.

She also said she doesn’t plan on leaving her post, even if there is post-election turnover elsewhere in the administration.

Her agency is overseeing parts of Mr. Trump’s sweeping plan to slash drug prices and an overhaul of Medicaid insurance for the poor, in which states can now condition benefits on working, volunteering or going to school if they seek a waiver from the federal government.

“After a year and a half,” she said, “I have only just gotten started.”

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