Blue wave shrinks states' anti-Obamacare coalition

The coalition of Republican attorneys general hoping to bring down Obamacare is losing at least one member, ...

Posted: Nov 14, 2018 4:19 PM
Updated: Nov 14, 2018 4:19 PM

The coalition of Republican attorneys general hoping to bring down Obamacare is losing at least one member, thanks to last week's blue wave in state elections.

Newly elected Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, has pledged to withdraw from the 20-state lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

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"When I take office, I will also work with [Democratic Gov.-elect] Tony Evers to withdraw from the lawsuit that's seeking to invalidate the Affordable Care Act," he said after his election last week. "No one in Wisconsin should be denied health insurance coverage because of a pre-existing condition. And protections for people with a pre-existing condition shouldn't be put at risk."

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton spearheaded the Republican charge against the landmark health legislation. A ruling in the suit, which revolves around Congress' reducing the individual mandate penalty to $0 starting in 2019, is expected from a US District Court judge in Texas any day.

The ruling is expected to be appealed either way.

A coalition of 17 attorneys general, led by California Democrat Xavier Becerra, stepped in to defend the health law after the Trump administration declined to defend certain key elements of the law. This group argues the mandate remains constitutional and that the rest of the law, in any event, would stand without it. The midterm election didn't affect the makeup of this group.

Kaul won in Wisconsin over incumbent Attorney General Brad Schimel, who was a key player in the lawsuit.

Other states that are involved also saw Democrats take control in the midterms.

In Kansas, Democrat Laura Kelly was elected governor, but Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt won re-election to a third term. The governor-elect plans to review the issue during the transition, though Schmidt will have the final say on whether Kansas stays in, said spokeswoman Ashley All.

"It's clear this lawsuit - if successful - could cause thousands of Kansans to lose health coverage and it could make health care unaffordable to many families," All said.

Maine also flipped blue with the victory of Democrat Janet Mills, but the change of control in Maine's governor's mansion won't have an impact on the case. That's because Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who was prevented from running again by term limits, joined the lawsuit as an individual, so the state isn't a party to it.

The election also raised the stakes for two other states suing to invalidate the law. Voters in Utah and Nebraska last week approved ballot measures that will expand Medicaid, extending health insurance to tens of thousands of residents in each state.

Medicaid expansion is part of the Affordable Care Act so it too would disappear if the law is found unconstitutional.

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