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GOPs Obamacare Challenge Could Strengthen Medicare-for-All Push

The federal government forms for applying for health coverage are seen at a rally held by supporters of the Affordable Care Act, widely referred to as Obamacare, outside the Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center in Jackson, Mississippi, U.S. (File)
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REUTERS / Jonathan Bachman

On Tuesday, several conservative state attorneys general attempted to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in a federal appeals court in New Orleans, Louisiana. If they succeed, it could be a major political win for the Republican Party in 2020, according to Jacqueline Luqman, the co-editor-in-chief of Luqman Nation.

The case was filed against the federal government by Republican governors and attorneys general who claim that the ACA, aka Obamacare, is unconstitutional, a position also endorsed by US President Donald Trumps administration. The recent hearing comes after lower court US District Judge Reed OConnor dismissed Obamas 2012 health care initiative as unconstitutional last year. OConnors decision came after Trump signed a law in 2017 that eliminated a tax penalty under the ACA that requires all Americans to purchase health insurance or be penalized when filing taxes. OConnor ruled that the removal of the tax rendered the whole of the ACA unconstitutional, but the ACAs supporters disagree.

“So the politics of this whole health care issue with the ACA … is very interesting,” Luqman said. “Lets say the Republicans prevail and get the court in New Orleans to uphold the unconstitutionality of the ACA, and presumably the headlines will read The ACA is unconstitutional. Even though the ACA will not be immediately dismantled, because what will happen, in that event, [is that] the Democrats will immediately appeal the New Orleans court decision, and it goes to the Supreme Court.”

“So, nothing really happens with the law if the Republicans prevail in upholding the unconstitutionality of the ACA,” Luqman explained. “But politically, it would be a major win for the Republicans in 2020, giving them the talking point that they came one step closer on delivering on their promise to appeal [against] Obamacare, even though millions of their own constituents rely on the ACA, especially for covering preexisting conditions.”

“If the Republicans prevail, theyve got a great talking point. But at the same time, if the court in New Orleans sides with the Democrats and does not hold the ACA to be unconstitutional, the Republicans can still say, See, we are trying to deliver on this promise to appeal the ACA, and the Democratic courts wont let us do it,” Luqman added.

A 2012 Supreme Court ruling upheld the ACA but gave states the option to not participate in the laws Medicaid expansion, allowing governors and state legislatures to make those decisions. Trump has pledged to repeal and replace Obamacare since the early days of his administration.

“Its a double-edged sword. It delivers them this talking point theyve been harping on for the past 10 years of repeal and replace Obamacare. But at the same time, the Democrats have been able to make inroads into this Republican base on the basis of the need for health care; Medicare-for-all is actually very popular among Republican voters. So, if the Democrats play this right … on Medicare-for-all, they can turn this talking [point] in their favor,” Luqman explained.

“The thing is, I am not confident that the Democrats are going to be that smart. I hope they will. I think [Vermont US Senator and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate] Bernie Sanders will be. But the Democratic Party, Im not so sure.”

So, what exactly does Medicare-for-all entail?

The system

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