Since they took control of the House in 2011, Republicans have voted to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act fifty times. Conservative governors across the country would rather see millions of their most vulnerable citizens denied health coverage — and hospitals that serve low-income families go under — than expand Medicaid.
And even as the Supreme Court hears an argument that the law’s preventive care provision burdens corporations’ “religious liberty,” another suit working its way through the federal courts seeks to exploit a minor drafting error in the text of the law to deprive millions of other Americans of the subsidies that make their insurance affordable.
In yesterday’s Washington Post, Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation, wrote that the American public needs to be better informed about who is “holding up their health care.”
Vanden Heuvel writes:
With one week remaining before the March 31 deadline for health coverage this year, a Republican filing a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act has become a familiar, if tiresome, sight.
But Republicans filing a lawsuit against the law on the grounds of copyright infringement? That’s something new.
Yet that is effectively what happened this month in Louisiana. On March 14, the state’s lieutenant governor sued the progressive group MoveOn.org over a billboard criticizing Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid in the state. The billboard uses Louisiana’s tourism slogan — “Pick Your Passion!” — and adds: “But hope you don’t lose your health. Gov. Jindal’s denying Medicaid to 242,000 people.” The lawsuit claims that the MoveOn ad will “result in substantial and irreparable harm, injury, and damages” to the Louisiana tourism office — as if denying health insurance to the neediest will not cause the state “substantial and irreparable harm.”
Legal experts say Jindal’s ploy has no chance of succeeding, thanks to the First Amendment. (This would be the same First Amendment that the governor passionately invoked in defense of “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson’s right to spew racist and homophobic vitriol.)
Jindal’s reason for refusing to expand Medicaid is as specious as his reason for suing MoveOn. He claims, falsely, that the expansion would divert funds that now go to disabled individuals under traditional Medicaid. In reality, the health-care law doesn’t harm the existing program. It creates several programs to improve care for the disabled receiving Medicaid; Jindal enrolled Louisiana in three of them. But this hasn’t stopped him from blaming the ACA for his own bad policies, including cuts he made to state Medicaid funding for pregnant women.
Louisiana isn’t the only state where Republicans are preventing thousands of low-income Americans from receiving health care. In Virginia, where state lawmakers refuse to expand Medicaid, hospitals will face higher costs and reduced services as a result. One million Texans will be denied access to coverage if the state continues to reject the Medicaid expansion. Meanwhile, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is willing to leave 300,000 of his neediest citizens uninsured. His reasoning? He’s afraid that the law might be repealed, leaving his state no way to meet its commitments — an ironic stance for a Republican to take, since they’re the ones trying to repeal it!
Read the entire column at The Washington Post.