Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia on Monday said Senate Republicans filed legislation to shield Obamacare’s protections from a pending court challenge because they are terrified the lawsuit filed by his November opponent will result in “tragic consequences.”
Mr. Manchin, one of several Democrats facing re-election in Trump country, said the bill to protect people with pre-existing conditions is inadequate but that the rift within the GOP should undermine his opponent, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
Mr. Morrisey and 19 other state Republicans are pushing the federal lawsuit, which says Congress‘ decision to gut Obamacare’s mandate to hold insurance should force the rest of the 2010 health law to crumble next year.
Ten skittish Senate Republicans filed a bill Friday that would require insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions and charge them the same price as healthy people, saying it would backfill protections for sicker Americans no matter what the courts do.
“Senate Republicans have finally admitted that this horrendous lawsuit is dangerous for the country and are scrambling to find a fix. Unfortunately, with only a few days before this harmful lawsuit begins, this legislation is just a weak attempt to disguise their efforts to roll back protections for nearly 800,000 West Virginians with pre-existing conditions,” Mr. Manchin said. “This harmful lawsuit should never have been brought in the first place and is dangerous for West Virginians.”
Obamacare’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions are incredibly popular, so Mr. Manchin and other vulnerable Democrats are weaponing the lawsuit against Republicans and the Trump administration, which has decided not to defend the law in court.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, has chided her fall opponent, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, for signing on as a plaintiff, too.
Democrats and outside experts say the Senate bill, which enshrines protections for sicker Americans in a 1990s privacy law known as “HIPAA,” might not achieve the GOP’s own aims. While insurers might be forced to extend coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, the GOP bill doesn’t make the companies actually pay for the kind of care they might need.
Bill sponsors say it’s unclear what the courts will do — oral arguments will begin Sept. 5 in Texas — and their bill should be viewed as an opening bid to a more comprehensive fix to Obamacare.
For their part, Mr. Morrisey and Mr. Hawley say their lawsuit is a good way to prod the GOP into settling on an Obamacare replacement that protects people with pre-existing conditions but uses market forces to bring costs down.
Republicans were unable to do that last year, though the GOP challengers say they can get it done by flipping enough Senate seats from blue to red.
Until that debate occurs, Mr. Hawley said, the Senate should pass the bill offered by Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and nine other Republicans to protect sicker Americans.
“I support this legislation,” he said on Twitter. “We can fix the mess made by Obamacare and still cover people with pre-existing conditions. [Ms. McCaskill] should quit being partisan and support this legislation too.”
“We all agree pre-existing conditions need to be covered and I’m glad to see Congress doing its job to protect those who need it most,” Mr. Morrisey said. “It is truly unfortunate that liberal Joe Manchin is playing politics with the health care of West Virginians and continues to obstruct President Trump’s efforts to repeal and replace the disaster of Obamacare.”
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