CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A federal appeals court on Tuesday will hear oral arguments on the constitutionality of former President Barack Obama’s health care law, a legal battle in which West Virginia is involved.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is considering a challenge to a December verdict against the law. A coalition of Republican-led states, which includes West Virginia, put forward a lawsuit challenging “Obamacare.” The lawsuit came in light of Congress’ repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate in the 2017 tax law. The provision required people to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty.
“Obamacare” remains in effect as it is being challenged.
Texas is leading the group of 18 states against “Obamacare.” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and 20 other Democratic attorneys general are intervening in the lawsuit, as well as the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.
The Department of Justice announced its support of the December decision in March after previously refusing to defend “Obamacare” in court. Attorneys said last week the department will continue to enforce the law while legal challenges continue.
“If the Trump administration had done its job to defend and protect the healthcare of millions of Americans, we wouldn’t be in this mess,” Becerra said in a press release on Friday.
“Since President Trump refuses to protect Americans’ health care, California’s coalition has picked up his fumble. Our argument is simple: the health and wellbeing of nearly every American is at risk. Health care can mean the difference between life and death, financial stability and bankruptcy. Our families’ wellbeing should not be treated as a political football. We’ll see the Trump administration in court to make sure it isn’t.”
Oral arguments are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Central time. If “Obamacare” is struck down, it could affect health insurance coverage for millions of Americans, such as people with pre-existing conditions. Such a verdict would also impact the millions of dollars states receive for health care programs.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey defended his involvement in the lawsuit to MetroNews in March, pointing to increasing premiums as one of his concerns with the current law.
“I believe this should be viewed as opening a debate to get rid of all the parts of ‘Obamacare’ that are highly problematic, and then sit down and have a conversation and say let’s have something that works much better for West Virginia,” he said at the time.
Morrisey defended his involvement in a social media post on Monday.
“So many hard working West Virginians are hurting due to Obamacare’s skyrocketing premiums. This must come to an end. I stand for the working class people of WV. We must reduce premiums dramatically & cover people with preexisting conditions. Don’t fall for the left’s con job. They are trying to scare people to continue to advance their socialist platform,” he said.
“We go to court this week to ensure that the individual mandate is declared unconstitutional.”
West Virginia is one of 37 states to expand Medicaid. The state Department of Health and Human Resources tweeted Monday that 155,587 people are enrolled in coverage that is part of West Virginia’s Medicaid expansion.
In addition, the state’s uninsured rate has fallen since “Obamacare” went into effect, decreasing from 14% in 2013 to 5.3% in 2016. The rate did increase to 6.1% in 2017.
The Kaiser Family Foundation previously reported premiums in West Virginia have more than doubled between 2014 and 2019.
The Democratic Attorneys General Association on Monday launched a six-figure campaign attacking five Republican attorneys general — including Morrisey — for their roles in the lawsuit.
“President Trump may call the GOP ‘the party of health care,’ but the truth is these Republican AGs are in court this week trying to sabotage health care coverage for millions of Americans,” said Farah Melendez, the organization’s political director.
“These health care hypocrites are attacking the critical care people in their states rely on to go to the doctor, afford prescription medication, and take care of sick kids and family members.”
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., led multiple efforts to get the Senate Legal Counsel and the federal government involved in the lawsuit. During last year’s U.S. Senate race, Manchin attacked Morrisey — the GOP nominee — for working to have the law struck down.