Dems go on offense against GOP lawsuit on pre-existing conditions

A new lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act has a new starring role in Democratic advertisements across the country, as candidates warn their Republican opponents would seek to end the law’s protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

The lawsuit, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel (R), claims the Affordable Care Act was rendered unconstitutional after Congress included a provision in last year’s tax-reform package to eliminate the individual mandate to buy health care. Initial arguments took place last month in a federal courtroom in Fort Worth.

After years of defending President Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement as it became a political albatross, Democrats see an opportunity to go on the offensive with voters.

“The Republican mantra at first was, 'this is just too expensive and premiums are going to go up and this is a bad law.' And listen, once the law was implemented, I think people saw that was a red herring,” said Sean Shaw, a Florida state representative and the Democratic nominee for attorney general. “Unfortunately for [Republicans], Americans and Floridians have started to feel the good part of the law.”

In many states, Democrats are using Paxton's lawsuit as a cudgel against some of the attorneys general who signed on — and who are now seeking higher office.

“Now the threat is Patrick Morrisey’s lawsuit to take away health care from people with pre-existing conditions. He is just dead wrong, and that ain’t gonna happen,” Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump to nominate former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as next EPA administrator Schumer reelected as Senate Democratic Leader Mellman: The triumph of partisanship MORE (D-W.Va.) says in a campaign advertisement, in which he shoots a copy of the lawsuit with a rifle.

Morrisey, West Virginia’s attorney general, was one of eighteen Republicans who joined Paxton’s suit. So did Josh Hawley, Missouri’s attorney general and now the GOP nominee against Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMissouri New Members 2019 2020 politics make an immigration deal unlikely in lame-duck Mellman: The triumph of partisanship MORE (D).

McCaskill told volunteers this week she wanted them to talk about health care when they knocked on doors on her behalf.

McCaskill said Monday Hawley is “willing to score a political point for the ideology of being against ObamaCare and allow people to pay a price when they don’t have that protection,”  according to the Kansas City Star.

In Wisconsin, Democrats are using the suit to go after Gov. Scott Walker (R), who faces a tight reelection battle against state schools chief Tony Evers (D). Walker signed off on Schimel’s decision to join the lawsuit in February.

“If Scott Walker takes away the protections for pre-existing conditions, I won’t be able to afford the treatments that are saving my life. It’s a matter of life and death for me,” says Mary, a Madison woman who appears in an advertisement for a Democratic PAC backing Evers.

Republicans have recognized the threat they face from Democratic attacks. In Missouri, Hawley has run an advertisement revealing that his son has a pre-existing condition. In an op-ed for the Springfield News-Leader this week, Hawley called McCaskill’s attacks a “smear campaign.”

“I’m committed to protecting people with preexisting conditions. And I’m committed to getting health care costs down for all Missourians,” Hawley wrote.

Walker supporters point to his Health Care Stability Plan, which the Walker campaign says will bring premiums down in 2019. Walker aired ads during a Green Bay Packers game featuring Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R), herself a cancer survivor.

Other Democrats are attacking even those Republican attorneys general who did not join the lawsuit against the ACA. In Michigan, former state legislator Gretchen Whitmer (D) has made health care a top issue in her bid for governor against Attorney General Bill Schuette (R). So has former Ohio Attorney General Richard CordrayRichard Adams CordrayKasich to return to New Hampshire for post-midterms visit Warren? Biden? Sanders? Dems have different answers on 2020 after 2018 The Hill's Morning Report — Split decision: Dems take House, GOP retains Senate majority MORE (D), who faces his successor Mike DeWine (R) in a tight battle for governor.

Neither Schuette nor DeWine joined Paxton’s suit. But Democrats have hammered them for opting not to join several Democratic attorneys general in legal filings opposing Paxton’s position.

Schuette “is in FAVOR of protecting insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions,” spokesman John Sellek said in an email. Sellek said Schuette wants to see work requirements for some of those on Medicaid. “Gretchen Whitmer is lying to fit the attack plan set up nationally by the Democrat Party.”

The shift in focus comes after years in which Republicans used the Affordable Care Act in negative advertisements. Almost a decade after it was passed, about half of Americans say they see the ACA in a favorable light, according to tracking surveys from the Kaiser Family Foundation, while just 40 percent see the law unfavorably.

Polls also show voters trust Democrats to handle health care issues more than they trust Republicans. A Fox News survey released last month showed 49 percent of voters said Democrats would do better handling health care, while just 34 percent favored the GOP; only 38 percent of voters approved of the job President TrumpDonald John TrumpMia Love pulls ahead in Utah race as judge dismisses her lawsuit Trump administration denies exploring extradition of Erdoğan foe for Turkey Trump congratulates Kemp, says Abrams will have 'terrific political future' MORE was doing handling health care.