Welcome to “The Brief,” a monthly roundup of Democracy Forward’s latest work to hold the Trump administration accountable. Read on below for news of our victories, newest filings, latest case updates, and resources to learn more.
March marks two anniversaries: a year into the COVID-19 pandemic in America and 11 years since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law. Our year dealing with a massive public health crisis has underscored the crucial need to defend people’s access to affordable, high-quality health coverage.
In the last few weeks, we’ve notched real wins in our ongoing fight to protect Americans’ access to health care. The current admin opened a special enrollment period that successfully registered more than 500K Americans (and counting) after we filed a lawsuit that highlighted Trump’s unlawful refusal to open one. We won an immediate halt to a Trump-era time bomb just weeks after we first filed suit on behalf of a diverse coalition. And we landed a major legal victory when a federal court ruled that the Trump administration’s actions unlawfully undermined the ACA…
… All while we doubled down on our efforts to fight corrupt policymaking, like challenging a last-minute waiver unlawfully approved by the Trump administration that allows the state of Georgia to stop its use of healthcare.gov.
Without further ado, spring into our healthcare-focused updates from March:
Daylight savings means goodbye to SUNSET (Rule) 🕓
Coalition lawsuit halts dangerous Trump-era “time bomb” set to blow up thousands of health and food safety protections.
As the sun was setting on the Trump administration, Trump appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rushed to plant a regulatory ticking time bomb that would automatically eliminate thousands of healthcare and food safety regulations in 2026.
Our lawsuit — on behalf of the County of Santa Clara, the California Tribal Families Coalition, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, the American Lung Association, CSPI, and NRDC — exposed the legal vulnerabilities and massive harm created by the unlawful rule. That, in turn, led the Biden administration to immediately halt the Sunset Rule (win!).
HHS said in its Federal Register filing that “the Court could find merit in some of” our claims and that:
“[I]nterests of justice require a postponement in order to preserve the status quo, because, if the rule took effect while HHS was evaluating the rule in light of the claims raised in litigation, it could create significant obligations for HHS, cause confusion for the public, including Plaintiffs…”
What happened? The “Securing Updated and Necessary Statutory Evaluations Timely” rule (AKA the “Sunset Rule”) was proposed by the Trump administration the day after the November election and finalized the day before President Biden’s inauguration, all in the midst of the pandemic, and after an unjustifiably short comment period.
Who does it harm? The automatic elimination of HHS safety regulations endangers every person in the country: the elderly, children, healthcare professionals, tribal governments/members, and anyone who needs medical care, is affected by pandemics or disasters, or simply eats food. Over 98% of the comments submitted opposed the Sunset Rule — even industry trade groups told the Trump administration to abandon the idea.
We’re proud of our work and commend the Biden-Harris admin’s quick action, but we’ll be sure to continue pursuing a legal remedy that ensures the “Sunset Rule” never goes into effect.
“‘The promise made in the SUNSET rule is that the [Health and Human Services] department will go through and, one at a time, review all of those regulations,’ says Samara Spence, senior counsel at the Democracy Forward Foundation, which is representing the plaintiffs in this case. The five-year review window for most regulations would require staffers to do this work many times faster than has been done previously, she says, and if they miss the deadline, ‘then the time bomb goes off and everything they did not get to just poofs out of existence.'”
From budding fights to a full bloom win 🌸
Federal Court rules Trump Admin undermined the Affordable Care Act, strikes down four Trump-era ACA policies.
Undoing the damage: Throughout his presidency, President Trump repeatedly attempted to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, making health insurance more expensive and harder to access.
After a long fight that began in 2018 on behalf of the cities of Columbus, OH; Baltimore, MD; Cincinnati, OH; Chicago, IL; Philadelphia, PA — and two individuals from Oregon — which garnered briefs in support from 20 states, the U.S. House of Representatives, health insurance experts and more…
… We won! A federal court ruled the Trump administration undermined the ACA and struck down four Trump-era policies that undercut the ACA’s success in providing affordable, high-quality health insurance to millions of Americans.
We’re encouraged by the court’s ruling and thrilled to know that our work has helped ensure more Americans can get access to the coverage they need.
Georgia intervenes in challenge to Trump Admin’s illegal approval of state’s plan to eliminate insurance marketplace.
We filed suit in January on behalf of Planned Parenthood Southeast and Feminist Women’s Health Center to challenge the Trump admin’s unlawful, last-minute approval of Georgia’s section 1332 waiver.
What does this mean? The waiver allows Georgia to cut off its residents’ access to healthcare.gov, violating essential Affordable Care Act requirements. It threatens to turn back the clock on Obamacare, just as over 16,000 Georgians signed up for health insurance under the current pandemic special enrollment period opened up by the Biden administration.
These efforts would damage Georgia’s health insurance market, force Georgians to shop for insurance through private brokers and insurance companies, lead more residents to enroll in junk plans, and increase premiums.
The State of Georgia moved last month to intervene in our lawsuit so it can defend the Trump administration’s unlawful approval of its destructive health insurance plan.
Well, as we told the Trump admin: we’ll see them in court.
ACA special enrollment period Trump Admin deemed “unwarranted” amidst pandemic successfully enrolled >500K Americans.
The previous administration’s callous refusal to open a special enrollment period was an unlawful and inexcusable impediment for millions of Americans who needed access to high-quality, affordable health insurance amid this once-in-a-century pandemic.
Our lawsuit on behalf of the City of Chicago exposed records of Trump’s HHS and CMS ignoring insurers’ and bipartisan governors’ concerns in favor of a political decision to undercut the ACA.
The Biden administration opened the SEP for the very reason urged in our suit — that the pandemic is plainly an “exceptional circumstance” that necessitates increased access to healthcare.
We’re proud of our fight to protect access to quality health insurance from Trump’s unlawful sabotage, and we commend the Biden administration for following the law and moving swiftly to open a COVID-19 special enrollment period.
We’ll leaf you with this 🌿
This month we put together a list of how we successfully fought back against some of the corrupt, illegal actions that came out of the Trump Executive Branch.
In case you missed it, here are 45 ways we exposed and stopped the 45th president from abusing government.
Over the course of its long four years in power, the Trump administration presented extraordinary challenges to the rule of law and sound policymaking. There certainly was a lot to do —
And there’s more to do yet. Stay tuned.