Legislative Democrats are pressing Missouri’s Republican attorney general, Josh Hawley, to withdraw the state from a national lawsuit seeking to gut the Affordable Care Act, which would return us to the days when a chronic illness — or even changing jobs — could leave you without health care insurance coverage.
That Hawley has so far refused to relax his opposition to Obamacare is no surprise. A U.S. Senate candidate in need of party backing, he has toed the GOP’s line against sanity on health care. But in the event he is still open to argument, he should consider the devastating impact this suit, if successful, will have on the Missourians he seeks to represent.
Some background: In February, 20 states, including Missouri, sued the federal government to kill the 2010 law that expanded medical coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. By writing out of the 2017 tax bill the law’s penalty provision for those who fail to buy insurance, the Republican-led Congress rendered the entire law unconstitutional, the lawsuit argues.
The Trump administration, doing its part in this concerted GOP attack on the health of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens, has declined to defend the law against the suit. It’s an unusual move that, obviously, increases the chances the plaintiffs will win.
If that happens, the insurance industry would revert to the hellscape it was for many families before Obamacare, when insurers routinely charged untenable rates to people with pre-existing conditions, or refused to cover them at all. Study after study shows higher mortality rates for people without health insurance. Whatever Hawley and his fellow plaintiffs tell the public and themselves about their motives for tearing down this law, they’re tearing down a protection that many of their constituents literally can’t live without.
As Missouri Senate Democrats aptly put it in a letter to Hawley Monday: “By being a party to this lawsuit, you are squarely on the side of removing protections for Americans — including 2.5 million Missourians — with pre-existing conditions.”
The irony of the suit is that many of its plaintiff-states, including Missouri, have above-average rates of adults with pre-existing conditions, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. About 27 percent of adult Americans under 65 have health conditions “that would likely leave them uninsurable” without the ACA’s protections, the study found. In Missouri, that rate is 30 percent.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., whom Hawley will likely face in November in one of the most-watched Senate races in the country, has co-sponsored a resolution directing Senate lawyers to fight the lawsuit. It probably is doomed, but it’s an indication that McCaskill is willing to make an election issue out of the premise that sick people need access to health care coverage, too. Partisan dogma aside, is this really the fight Hawley wants to have?