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Protestors march in favor of protecting the Affordable Care Act. Photo: Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Justice Department now says the courts should strike down the entire Affordable Care Act — not just its protections for pre-existing conditions. The department signaled its new, broader position in a legal filing Monday, part of a lawsuit challenging the law's individual insurance mandate.

Why it matters: A ruling striking down the entire ACA would upend major parts of the health care system. Millions of people would lose their health care coverage, and a host of seemingly unrelated policies — including new experiments in how Medicare pays for care and an entire class of prescription drugs — would also go out the window.

How it works: A federal judge ruled in December that the ACA's individual mandate has become unconstitutional, because of the way Republicans zeroed out the penalty for being uninsured.

  • He said the entire ACA had to fall along with the mandate — the position the Republican attorneys general who brought this lawsuit had advocated.
  • At the time, the Justice Department had agreed that the mandate was unconstitutional, but said only 2 other provisions needed to go — the one requiring insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions, and the one prohibiting them from charging those customers a higher premium.
  • Now, though, the Justice Department says it agrees with the judge's entire opinion, and won't challenge any part of that ruling as the case heads through the appeals process.

What's next: The case is pending before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals — the most conservative appeals court in the country. From there it would go to the Supreme Court.

Go deeper

The states ending federal pandemic unemployment benefits early

Protesters demand senators support the continuation of unemployment benefits on July 16, 2020 in Miami Springs, Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

At least 13 Republican-led states have announced they are terminating their involvement in federal pandemic-related unemployment programs early.

Driving the news: Many of the states' governors cited worker shortages. But some experts say it's the job climate, including pandemic-era factors, and not unemployment benefits that is determining when and how people return to work.

Elon Musk suspends Tesla purchases with bitcoin

Elon Musk. Photo: Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Consumers can no longer buy Tesla vehicles with bitcoin, CEO Elon Musk announced on Twitter Wednesday.

What he's saying: Musk cited the environmental concerns associated with bitcoin — the cryptocurrency has a massive carbon footprint — as his reasoning behind Wednesday's decision.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
2 hours ago - Science

The cicadas are a preview of a buggy future

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Trillions of Brood X cicadas are now emerging throughout parts of the mid-Atlantic and Midwestern U.S.

Why it matters: Most immediately, because they can be as loud as a Metallica show when they're singing in concert.

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