State Lawmakers Defend Health Care Law Against Right Wing Attorneys General

As the lawsuit being brought by 20 right-wing state Attorneys General against the new health care law proceeds in federal court in Florida, a bipartisan group of over 75 lawmakers working with Progressive States Network and the Constitutional Accountability Center announced this week that they will be defending the law’s constitutionality in an amicus brief in support of the law. State lawmakers who have signed the brief represent 27 states, including at least 12 where their respective Attorneys General or Governors are plaintiffs in the action. The motion for leave to file the state legislators' amicus brief was granted by Judge Roger Vinson in in U.S. District Court in Pensacola, Florida last week, and the brief itself will be filed later this week.

On a telephone press conference Tuesday announcing the filing of the brief, state legislators from across the nation explained why they felt compelled to defend the constitutionality of the new law in court. "As state lawmakers, we seek to protect the expanded coverage, cost reductions, and guaranteed security for millions of Americans in the new health care law," said State Sen. Jack Hatch (IA), Chair of the Working Group of State Legislators for Health Reform. "The state Attorneys General who filed this political lawsuit want a judicial 'do-over' on health care reform at the expense of working families all across America. They are threatening the gains Americans have already made - like no pre-existing conditions for children - while putting future benefits at risk." Others highlighted the contrast between lawmakers hard at work on enacting real health care solutions for working families in their states and the Attorneys General and Governors who have joined the lawsuit, whose motives they described as largely political. "Washington state's Attorney General has gone forward with his action over the objection of both the legislative leadership and the Governor," said State Sen. Karen Keiser (WA). "The new health care law will provide enormous benefits to citizens of Washington state."

"In a state like Arizona, with a Governor and a state legislature that is hostile to providing affordable health care for working families, it's important to note that we still have a number of legislators like myself who have proudly joined this brief and are standing up for Arizona's families and their right to have access to affordable health care," said State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (AZ). Across the nation, right-wing lawmakers and officials in states from Texas to Arizona to Maine have enacted or threatened increasingly drastic cuts in coverage to vulnerable populations. Some have gone so far as to suggest that their states consider the radical step of opting out of Medicaid entirely, an action that would cost states millions in federal funding, leading to predicted fiscal effects that advocates and physicians in Texas (one of the states where conservatives have been most loudly suggesting the possibility opting out) have described as "decimating" and "devastating". The CEO of a Dallas hospital recently described a similar proposal by Texas Governor Rick Perry as being "so bizarre as to be unworthy of consideration."  

State Rep. Garnet Coleman (TX) noted that proposals to opt out of Medicaid prove that states are not being "coerced" into an unconstitutional arrangement, negating one of the arguments of the Attorneys General bringing the lawsuit. "Our hope is that they don’t opt out, but clearly it’s a proposal that’s on the table here in Texas," said Coleman, who noted that 6 million Texans are already currently uninsured in Texas, and that the number would skyrocket if the state were to opt out of Medicaid. Estimates are that the current percentage of uninsured Texans (27%), already one of the highest in the nation, would rise to 40% if Texas were to heed the calls of extremist right-wing lawmakers. In the coming session, members of the Working Group of State Legislators for Health Reform plan to continue their work to ensure that provisions of the federal law are implemented effectively, and to defeat unpopular and destructive attempts by conservative lawmakers, attorneys general, and governors to repeal, defund, and obstruct reform.

This article is part of PSN's email newsletter, The Stateside Dispatch.
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