Trump finally pulls plug on Obamacare
President Trump is giving people more reasons to stay or move to Massachusetts.
Late Thursday, the Justice Department announced it will no longer defend the provisions of the Affordable Care Act in a suit by 20 GOP-controlled states challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate. It’s a decision that will likely end the most important legacy of former President Barack Obama and bring to a close, at least temporarily, the elusive goal to provide health insurance to all Americans, whether they want it or not.
There are already a number of people up in arms about the decision, calling it an unprecedented action by the Justice Department to enact the political whims of the president. But it’s not quite as unprecedented as those folks say. All one needs to do is look back at the decision by the Obama administration to drop its defense of the congressionally enacted Defense of Marriage act, a decision that led to legalized gay marriage.
Attorney General Jeff Session, in a letter to Congress, said the administration has determined Obamacare’s mandate is unconstitutional in the wake of the decision by lawmakers to repeal the tax penalty, the key basis for the Supreme Court’s ruling in upholding the law in 2012. By extension, Sessions said, that would also mean the provisions requiring insurance companies to cover customers with pre-existing conditions and not charge added premiums is also a violation of the Constitution.
In those states such as Massachusetts that have their own laws mandating insurance coverage, the decision will have limited initial impact. That, though, is somewhat misleading because only Massachusetts has an individual mandate, even though a number of other states are making efforts to pass such laws.
The individual mandate is the bane of conservatives and libertarians even though it was the result of a proposal from the right-leaning Heritage Foundation back in the 1970s as a path to universal healthcare. The rationale then and now is that in order to cover the sickest, the most well would also need to buy in to balance the spreadsheet as well as avoid people only jumping into the insurance pool when they most need it. But once the late Sen. Ted Kennedy embraced it and Obama used it as the cornerstone of his sweeping law, it no longer was a cause for Republicans.
Some, such as Harvard professor John McDonough, had said Congress’ decision to repeal the tax penalty last December was not a fatal blow to Obamacare and, in some ways, could be a boon to better health policy. But McDonough’s optimistic outlook was based on the retention of the pre-existing conditions clause as well as continued Medicaid funding to support some 13 million people who received coverage they otherwise couldn’t afford.
The Justice Department’s decision to let the pre-existing coverage die with the individual mandate will mean premiums rising in those states that have no law. Some will scramble to pass them before the suit wends its way to its conclusion, which could take months. And the individual and business tax penalty does not expire until 2019, giving a little more breathing room.
Sessions letter said the decision would have no impact on Medicaid expansion funding, but that is up to Congress. Massachusetts relies on the Medicaid funding as well as waivers from the federal government to enforce its laws. What are the chances of finding a Trump appointee sympathetic to the Bay State?
Does the decision to enact Trump’s political stances send a message that the practice could become more widespread? That will be a key point in the mid-term elections this fall. The individual mandate is reviled by a majority of voters, according to most polls, but they support the requirement that insurers not penalize someone for pre-existing conditions. Those two diametrically opposed views will have to be reconciled come November or someone will pay the price.
The Senate, like the House, passed an “extreme risk” gun bill. Once the two branches reconcile differences between the two bills, the measure will go to Gov. Charlie Baker. (State House News)
Negotiations aimed at preempting a ballot question to raise the minimum wage have hit an impasse. (Boston Globe)
Herald columnist Michael Graham backs a move by Republican state Rep. Jim Lyons to have a Salem judge removed over the sentence he gave to a defendant convicted of drug dealing.
Middleboro selectmen have set new guidelines for the “unanticipated” portion of their meetings that allows the public to broach subjects not on the agenda but which officials say has become a forum for personal attacks and airing of grievances. (The Enterprise)
Four city councilors voted against a proposal in committee to support Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia’s plan to eliminate the city’s controversial pay-as-you-throw trash program but they still need one more vote in the full council to maintain the program. (Herald News)
Only 15 of the state’s 47 mayors are registered for the US Conference of Mayors conference in Boston that Mayor Marty Walsh is playing host to. (Boston Herald)
A Herald editorial criticizes Boston for raising parking ticket fines.
The Rockport Board of Health banned smoking on town beaches. (Salem News)
A former Senate Intelligence Committee aide was charged with lying to the FBI regarding leaks in the Russia election meddling probe and agents seized the phone records and emails of a New York Times reporter the aide was romantically involved with who wrote stories stemming from the investigation. (New York Times)
Praise from prominent Democrats during Gov. Charlie Baker’s time in office is proving helpful to his campaign, which plans to use the comments to buff up his bipartisan credentials in his fall campaign against his Democratic challenger. (Boston Globe)
Bernie Sanders’s son Levi is running for Congress in New Hampshire, but the fiery Vermont senator — and potential 2020 presidential candidate — seems to want nothing to do with the run. (Boston Globe)
The US Customs and Immigration Service received so many applications from employers for the coveted H-2B worker visas that officials will hold a lottery to dole out the allotted 15,000 visas, leaving many Cape and islands businesses at the mercy of the luck of the draw. (Cape Cod Times)
Proposed tariffs by other countries in retaliation of those planned by President Trump could have a devastating impact on cranberry growers on the South Shore. (Patriot Ledger)
A Somerville kindergarten uses a nursery rhyme to teach the students about lockdowns. (Boston Globe)
The Barnstable School Committee voted not to renew the charter for the district’s high-performing K-3 Horace Mann Charter School over concerns about oversight and independence. The 15-year-old school that draws some of the district’s neediest students. (Cape Cod Times)
Suicide rates increased in nearly every state, including Massachusetts, between 1999 and 2016, though the Bay State has one of the lowest rates (48th) of any state. (Boston Globe)
It may be just a coincidence, but big and small transportation decisions facing the Baker administration seem to be getting put off until after the election. (CommonWealth)
Several hundred state workers and retirees continued to use state EZ-Pass transponders allowing them to drive toll-free — until the issue was flagged this week — despite a state inspector general report two years warning about the practice. (Boston Globe)
The Daily Item followed up on a CommonWealth Codcast with former transportation secretary Fred Salvucci, who said the Blue Line was set to go to Lynn in the mid-1970s when the mayor called a halt and the project never recovered.
ExxonMobil, building a water line to communities in Charlton affected by an oil spill contamination, said the project will not be done until 2021, several years later than promised. (Telegram & Gazette)
John Kerry said President Trump has been “misleading” Americans about the Paris climate accord that he pulled out of. (Boston Globe)
The superintendent of Yellowstone Park says the Trump administration is forcing him out over a dispute about the bison population in the national park, the source of a longstanding conflict with ranchers in nearby Montana. (Associated Press)
Proponents of legal marijuana in Brockton, including Mayor Bill Carpenter, are charging the City Council with “slow-walking” zoning ordinances that would allow retail pot stores to open downtown, inaction they say is to spite the mayor and is potentially costing the city millions in lost revenues. (The Enterprise)
A woman who worked for Wynn Resorts on its Everett casino filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the project’s chief information officer. Five Wynn officials are named as defendants. (Boston Globe)
With a Mashpee Wampanoag casino in southeastern Massachusetts stalled, Rush Street Gaming is asking the Gaming Commission to give its proposal for a Brockton casino another look. (Boston Globe)
The driver in a hit-and-run accident that killed a pedestrian in Allston — who has shocked the region with with an interview displaying a blase attitude toward the event — is facing vehicular homicide charges. (Boston Globe)
A judge urged the Boston Globe and Hilary Sargent to find common ground on an investigation into sexually inappropriate behavior at the newspaper. (CommonWealth)
The decision by editors of Boston Review to keep writer Junot Diaz on staff as fiction editor of the political and literary journal, despite accusations of sexual misconduct against him, led the magazine’s three poetry writers to announce they are quitting in protest. (The New Republic) State Rep. Juana Matias, one of 11 Democrats vying in the Third Congressional District, is returning a $5,700 donation from the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. (Boston Globe)
Bill Littlefield, the host of “Only a Game,” is retiring. (WBUR)PASSINGS
Anthony Bourdain, who reported on food and travel for CNN, committed suicide in France. (CNN)