A division of the Obama administration has asked the Supreme Court to reinstate a major part of its health care law that requires many health care workers to participate in so-called “preventive services” — a fight that has intensified as uncertainty grows over whether the GOP might attempt to repeal the entire law again.
Citing concerns about escalating prescription drug prices, a division of the Justice Department asked the court to block lower court rulings that invalidated the law in three specific cases. One decision in Maryland was broad enough to wipe out the entire statute.
With the latest request, which puts the Supreme Court on track to rule in the spring, the department is preparing for the ruling to be broad and block doctors from taking part in the law even if the court upholds the law’s coverage mandates.
Health care law 2017-120119 Title: Minimum standards. Jan 18, 2016. U.S. v. Murtha, et al.
If the Supreme Court upholds the health care law’s most controversial provisions, it is likely to strike down the specific Medicaid restrictions that are at issue in the Maryland case. State officials in Maryland have warned that certain doctors could be denied Medicaid patients who need expensive medications if the state’s Medicaid program does not reimburse doctors who do not participate in the federal law’s preventive services.
It is possible that Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, a conservative appointee of the Trump administration, would agree with the administration’s petition. But the Trump administration has vacillated on the law since it was first passed by Congress in 2010, changing its position on certain provisions and refraining from opposing others that might be vulnerable to repeal.
Asked whether the Trump administration is advancing the case to shore up protections for President Obama’s signature achievement, Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores declined to comment.
But in court papers filed Monday, the Justice Department said it was concerned about increasing drug prices and providing affordable prescription drugs to rural communities, and “the uncertainty that the current court rulings may cause” — a possible reference to the Republican effort to repeal the law at the end of 2017 and the uncertainty over the long-term future of Medicaid coverage under the law.
The department asked the Supreme Court to block the lower court rulings, in Maryland, California and Tennessee, at least through the end of the calendar year so the issue could be resolved in time for them to apply in the 2020 federal budget year.
In a rare move for the Supreme Court, the Justice Department has asked to intervene in cases where the parties or the judges disagree on the subject. It is unusual to take a position in cases where the stakes are so high.