Association health plan ruling puts some companies in limbo

President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids Mich. on Thursday

When Democrats won a majority in the House of Representatives with a net gain of 40 seats in the 2018 midterms, it became obvious that Republicans in Congress would not have the votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act of 2010, also known as Obamacare, in 2019 or 2020. Critics have called association health plans "junk insurance" that provide skimpy coverage.

The GOP turmoil over health care has come as a boon to Democrats, who are looking to change the subject from special counsel Robert Mueller's conclusion that the Trump campaign did not conspire with the Russian government to sway the 2016 election.

A federal judge in Texas ruled in December that the entire law was unconstitutional due to its insurance mandate, since Congress and the president already reduced the penalty for failure to get insurance to zero. Under the administration's rule, they would in effect be counted as having 51 employees. "Who knew health care could be so complicated?".

Under the rule, businesses and individuals can team up to create group health plans that offer less expensive coverage without complying with numerous requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

But Trump has been obstinate in the face of those political warning signs, instead concerned that repealing and replacing Obamacare remains the one signature 2016 campaign promise he has yet to make good on.

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U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor ruled previous year that Obamacare is no longer constitutional because the tax reform - as enacted by Republicans -eliminated the health care law's penalty for not having health insurance.

New York, 10 other states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit challenging the Association Health Plan rule. All sides expect the case to go to the Supreme Court, which has twice before upheld the ACA.

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates wrote in his opinion late Thursday that so-called "association health plans" were "clearly an end-run" around consumer protections required by the Obama-era Affordable Care Act. He found that administration officials failed to account for coverage losses and other potential harm, and sent the Health and Human Services Department back to the drawing board.

The administration said it disagrees but hasn't formally announced an appeal. But in 2015, Romney finally claimed ownership of helping create the state law that laid the foundations for the Affordable Care Act.

"The administration will continue to fight for sole proprietors and small businesses so that they can have the freedom to band together to obtain more affordable, quality healthcare coverage", a Justice Department spokesman said.