CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Democratic legislators say a measure backed by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey does not do enough to protect insurance coverage of pre-existing conditions.
A group of Democratic lawmakers went after Morrisey on Monday for the bill, which is being discussed as West Virginia and 17 other states challenge the constitutionality of former President Barack Obama’s landmark legislation.
“When you lie and deceit the public, normally you would call that person a con-artist. In West Virginia, we call that person our attorney general,” Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, said.
Eighteen Republican-led states and the U.S. Department of Justice are challenging “Obamacare;” the argument stems from Congress’ zeroing of the individual mandate penalty for not purchasing insurance in the 2017 tax law.
Morrisey and Republican legislators announced last week the West Virginia Healthcare Continuity Act that would prohibit insurance providers from excluding coverage of pre-existing conditions. Under the measure, the state insurance commissioner would also be responsible for establishing the West Virginia Patient Protection Poll, a “risk-sharing program” that would pay insurance providers for covering people with high health care costs.
Morrisey responded to the criticism, pointing out the health care still remains in effect and no one has lost coverage yet because of the legal challenge.
“This act is designed to help West Virginians and is modeled after bipartisan, bicameral legislation which was enacted in Louisiana with a Republican Legislature and a Democratic Governor,” he said. “Our approach ensures that we eliminate the unconstitutional individual mandate of Obamacare and take steps to address skyrocketing premiums, while protecting those with pre-existing conditions. This shouldn’t be about politics.”
Senator Richard Lindsey, D-Kanawha, said Morrisey’s bill does not put West Virginians first.
“More importantly, it does not restore the health in our communities,” Lindsay said.
Lindsay also warned people with pre-existing conditions could fall out of the marketplace if the proposal becomes law.
“Meaning there will not be private insurance for them. Meaning that our hospitals will suffer because they won’t get reimbursement from these individuals when they show up at hospitals,” he added.
The lawmakers on Monday also asked Gov. Jim Justice to get West Virginia out of the lawsuit. Justice endorsed the West Virginia Healthcare Continuity Act during last week’s State of the State Address.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals last month rule the individual mandate is unconstitutional but asked a U.S. district court to review which parts of “Obamacare” could be separated from the provision. That court — the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas — struck the individual mandate and entire law down in December 2018.
MetroNews reporter Jeff Jenkins contributed to this story.