July 19, 2018

Manchin Urges Department of Justice to Protect West Virginians with Pre-Existing Conditions

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) today urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to direct the Department of Justice to defend the Affordable Care Act in the pending suit Texas vs. United States — a case in which millions of Americans, including nearly 800,000 West Virginians, living with pre-existing conditions, are at risk of losing their healthcare coverage. The Attorney General of West Virginia has joined 19 other states in suing to allow insurance companies to once again deny coverage to West Virginians with pre-existing conditions.

“I have held two roundtable discussions with Clergy in West Virginia on the issue of pre-existing conditions—touching specifically on the lawsuit that West Virginia’s Attorney General is waging against West Virginians with pre-existing conditions. This lawsuit was filed without comprehensive or meaningful outreach to West Virginia stakeholders – particularly the nearly 800,000 West Virginians with pre-existing conditions,” Senator Manchin said.

“It’s alarming that the Department of Justice decided to abandon its obligation to defend the law and the constitutionality of protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The loss of these protections would be devastating in West Virginia, where nearly 40% of our residents have a pre-existing condition. We cannot go back to a time where insurance companies played God.”

Last month, Senator Manchin asked West Virginians to share their stories about healthcare access for those with pre-existing conditions by emailing them to healthcare@manchin.senate.gov. Senator Manchin will read these stories on the Senate Floor.

Read the full letter below or click here:

Dear Attorney General Sessions:

After meeting with members of the clergy from across West Virginia representing all faiths and denominations, I am writing to express the grave concerns I and many of the faith leaders in West Virginians have about the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) decision to decline to defend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) as outlined in the government’s brief filed in Texas v. United States, No. 4:18-cv-00167-O (N.D. Tex.) on June 7, 2018.  As a United States Senator representing the nearly 800,000 West Virginians as recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services living with preexisting conditions, I implore you to direct the DOJ to reverse course and defend the federal law.

On February 26, the Attorney General of Texas and 19 other state Attorneys General – including the Attorney General from West Virginia – filed a lawsuit seeking to eliminate provisions of the ACA. This lawsuit was filed without comprehensive or meaningful outreach to West Virginians – particularly, the nearly 800,000 West Virginians with pre-existing conditions. I’ve reached out to medical providers and patient advocacy groups that cover every corner of the state.  These groups confirmed my worst fear - no one from the DOJ or any other federal agency contacted them to determine how West Virginians would be affected by this lawsuit. Without attempting to understand the full impact of their actions, DOJ’s reckless and irresponsible conclusion that it is not obligated to defend the constitutionality of the ACA provisions that guaranty protections for people with pre-existing conditions is extremely concerning. Furthermore, this decision will create another layer of uncertainty for insurers across the country, just as those insurers are beginning to file proposed premiums for next year.  As a result, I believe health care costs will inevitably spike.

As you may know, there are approximately 133 million Americans living with pre-existing conditions, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  If successful, the states’ lawsuit could result in insurance providers denying coverage based on one of these conditions whether it be acne, pregnancy or heart disease.  The termination of critical anti-discriminatory protections could leave Americans without health insurance and thus without access to necessary and, in many cases, life-saving medical care.  In West Virginia, the nearly 800,000 Mountaineers with preexisting conditions represent 40% of my entire state’s citizenry.  The loss of these essential protections for people with pre-existing conditions would be absolutely devastating to West Virginia.

I would also like to note that, in my home state, many West Virginians suffer from one particular pre-existing condition that I feel obligated to bring to your attention - substance use disorder.  In 2017, there were 909 fatal overdoses in West Virginia.  That’s why I fight for the expansion of substance abuse treatment – to stop this tragic and preventable loss of life.   Without health insurance coverage, however, that fight will grow harder and the loss of life will surely rise.  Many West Virginians would lose access to treatment programs and rehabilitation services that are only accessible to those with proper health insurance coverage, as such treatment options are otherwise cost prohibitive.

I am disappointed in the DOJ’s decision and I urge you to direct the DOJ to uphold the rule of law and defend the constitutionality of the ACA.