Texas plays starring role in Obamacare battle of the ages

by | Jul 9, 2019 | Health Care, Policy

Ken Paxton, the legally embattled Texas Attorney General just had his day in court, but this time he wasn’t under indictment. 

The lawsuit he initiated against the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was argued in front of one of the most conservative courts in the country Tuesday in New Orleans. It’s the latest movement in a slow-motion attack against the ACA, which if killed by a court, could drop millions from their health insurance.  

Justin Nelson, a Texas attorney who ran against Paxton last year for attorney general and who attended today’s 90-minute oral argument before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, told the Signal he believed that the Republican-leaning panel of judges may end up ruling the ACA unconstitutional, thereby stripping millions of Americans of their health insurance for pre-existing medical conditions.

“I would have withdrawn Texas from this lawsuit my first day in office,” Nelson said, blaming President Trump and an indicted Paxton for adding chaos to the lives of Texans and risking their access to health insurance. 

Nelson, like most court observers, said he believed the case will likely be kicked up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where its fate will ultimately be decided. 

At the heart of the case heard Tuesday is whether the ACA’s individual mandate requiring people to buy health insurance or pay a penalty is constitutional. The Trump Administration says it’s not, though their legal reasoning has been called into question in the recent Census and congressional subpoena power cases, not to mention the 2017 Muslim ban.

Texas’ senior senator

With health care back in the news, it is a ripe opportunity for Democrats to look at Sen. John Cornyn’s record on health care. 

Once known as healthcare repeal’s ‘top salesman,’ Cornyn now has a choice to make: does he stand with the millions of Texans threatened to lose their protections for their pre-existing conditions or does he stand with pharmaceutical and insurance industry donors who have bankrolled his campaigns to the tune of almost $1.7 million?” the Texas Democratic Party said in a statement.

Cornyn’s response to the case on Tuesday seemed defensive. He addressed health care in four tweets, including in a video from a Senate floor speech.

“I have no doubt that once again [Democrats will] try to blame Republicans as the bad guys and somehow perpetuate this myth that Republicans are opposed to covering people for preexisting conditions.”

Cornyn has been a United States senator since 2002. All of his poll-tested tweets and speeches are brand new, contrary to his record on health care.

Unrelated to the ACA case, a prominent forecaster, Nathan Gonzales, changed his forecast of the Texas Senate race from “solid republican” to “likely Republican.” This means Cornyn is losing momentum, not gaining it.

Texas’ heavy health care hand

In a Fox News opinion piece, Paxton said he looked forward to the death of Obamacare and said its demise would return health care legislation to the control of Texas’ politicians and not Washington. 

But health care is already somewhat under the iron fist of right-wing Texas Republicans, who have said no to Medicaid expansion and no to legislation protecting pre-existing conditions. 

That’s a big reason why Texas is the uninsured capital of the nation and has one of the poorest health outcomes for its people. 

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