There’s a saying for what a group of Republican officials from 20 states, including Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, just did by pursuing a lawsuit that has now plunged the entire American health care system into uncertainty. Actually, there are several.
You could say that this group is the proverbial dog that caught the car, when really the whole point of the exercise was the chase — in this case, the long-running political crusade against the Affordable Care Act.
You could also echo what Gen. Colin Powell said after the U.S. went into Iraq and took out Saddam Hussein: You break it, you own it.
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana's governor and attorney general are trading criticism and suggesting state legislation in the wake of a Texa…
In a shocking Friday night ruling, a federal judge in Texas went even further than what the sympathetic Trump administration, which took the highly unusual position of refusing to defend a federal law passed under the prior president, had expected. Judge Reed O’Connor not only agreed with the plaintiffs that Congress’s all-Republican vote to eliminate tax penalties on those who don’t carry health insurance invalidates popular provisions such as protections for people with pre-existing conditions. He also said the entire Obamacare law cannot stand.
Technically, the system’s not broken yet, and legal experts from across the political spectrum quickly scoffed at the judge’s expansive argument and predicted an eventual reversal, although you can never be sure. Regardless, the future trip through the New Orleans-based appeals court and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court could take years.
That doesn’t mean what’s already happened isn’t bad.
It’s bad for business, specifically the insurance and medical industries, which cannot plan for the future amid extreme uncertainty.
It’s bad for patients who rely upon these protections, obviously. That includes people with pre-existing conditions who now buy their own insurance or might need to in the future, young adults kids who can now stay on their parents’ policies until they’re 26, people who use essential benefits such as mental health and pregnancy coverage, and anyone on Medicaid expansion, a program so popular that voters in three conservative states just approved referenda to opt in.
And ironically, it’s terrible for the politics of the people who supported the suit in the first place — even if they’re the last to realize that the tide has turned, that the fear they long sowed has subsided, and that Americans in red states, as well as blue, have come to rely upon the law’s consumer protections.
Indeed, the rhetoric from those celebrating the law’s possible demise is stuck firmly in 2010.
There was this from Louisiana U.S. Rep. and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise: “While Democrats may have won the House by running a fear-mongering campaign, unfortunately their reckless legislating has not proven to be as effective for the American people who have to live under this failed system.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards is practically taunting Attorney General Jeff Landry these days, arguing to anyone who’ll listen that a Texas lawsuit se…
And this from President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed: “As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster! Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT health care and protects pre-existing conditions.”
And that, of course, is where all of this breaks down. Congress had a chance to repeal and replace the law, and it didn’t. While Scalise claims that the version of repeal that the House passed took care of people with pre-existing conditions, fact-checkers agreed that the benefits fell far short of the existing protections. And the uprising over the proposed changes not only set the stage for Senate defeat, but made it clear that politicians go after these benefits at their peril. Indeed, the existence of the lawsuit itself became a potent issue for Democrats during the recent midterm elections.
Yet Landry and others are promising that they can work all of this out, that states will come up with policies to somehow make everything OK. Republican Louisiana lawmakers who supported Landry’s involvement over the furious objection of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards have backed him up but offered no specifics on how they’d do it. Congress’s failure and the herculean effort it took over the last three years for Louisiana’s lawmakers to simply keep government funded don't exactly inspire confidence that there's a painless way out of this mess.
They now have to go through the motions of trying, though, and for that, they can thank their own attorney general. Probably through gritted teeth.