March 27, 2019

Manchin Criticizes Justice Department For 'Obamacare' Stance | WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., condemned the Department of Justice on Tuesday for its support of a judicial ruling that the federal health care law and its individual mandate are unconstitutional.

Manchin said the department is wrong in wanting the decision made in December to be affirmed, noting millions of Americans could lose health insurance if “Obamacare” is struck down.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is considering the ruling made by Judge Reed O’Connor, a George W. Bush appointee; O’Connor ruled the law as unconstitutional because of Congress’ removal of the individual mandate in the 2017 tax bill. The provision required people to purchase insurance or face a penalty.

“This will put millions of Americans and tens of thousands of West Virginians at risk of losing their health insurance, including the thousands of West Virginians who gained health insurance through the Medicaid expansion, and thousands more who gained insurance through the state health exchange,” Manchin said. “This is just plain wrong, and worse than we could have ever imagined.”

A coalition of 20 states, including West Virginia, sued the federal government last year over the law. Twenty-one states filed an appeal to the verdict on Monday, arguing the individual mandate as an unessential provision.

Before Monday’s letter, the Justice Department only opted not to defend the statute in court.

More than 20 million people have health insurance because of the health care law’s Medicaid expansion and exchange insurance plans. According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, 159,069 people are enrolled in the state’s Medicaid expansion program.

Manchin said 800,000 West Virginians with pre-existing conditions would additionally be at risk of losing their insurance if the ruling stands, and costs could also rise if the plaintiffs are successful.

“What’s worse is that we have had two bipartisan healthcare fixes on Mitch McConnell’s desk that he refused to bring up to a vote because fixing the Affordable Care Act doesn’t benefit him politically,” he added.

One measure, which Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander and Washington Sen. Patty Murray introduced in October 2017, includes funding for cost-sharing reduction subsidies and increasing flexibility for states to secure provision waivers.

The senator added the chamber should pass a resolution he and Senate Democrats introduced in January ordering the Senate Legal Counsel to enter the lawsuit.

“Protecting West Virginians’ health care has always been my top priority, and I will continue to fight for every West Virginian to have access to quality, affordable health care,” he said.

During last year’s midterm elections, Manchin criticized the Republican candidate and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey for his involvement in the lawsuit; Manchin’s campaign released multiple advertisements targeting Morrisey on the matter, including one featuring Manchin shooting the lawsuit using a rifle.

As a nominee, Attorney General William Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee he would reconsider the Justice Department’s stance on the lawsuit. Manchin — as well as Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito — voted last month to confirm Barr to his current position.


By:  Alex Thomas