AG warns of impact if ACA is struck down

    Protesters demonstrate in support of the Affordable Care Act in this undated photo. (Photo by LaDawna's pics, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

    His hands tied by his Republican predecessor and restrictions imposed in the state legislature’s lame-duck session before he took office, Attorney General Josh Kaul says the state still needs to counteract the continuing legal attacks on the Affordable Care Act.

    Kaul spoke during a media conference call last week in reaction to a federal appeals court ruling striking down the ACA’s requirement that people carry health coverage. The ruling is the latest development in a lawsuit against the ACA that appears likely to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court, possibly as soon as 2020.

    The Wisconsin Department of Justice appears blocked from entering the lawsuit with other states that have joined forces to defend the ACA. Although Kaul and Gov. Tony Evers support the health care law, the state previously was part of the suit by Republican state attorneys general to overturn it.

    Kaul withdrew Wisconsin’s support of that suit earlier this year. “We have not been on the [pro-ACA] side, because we were involved in the case on one side,” Kaul explained in the conference call. “But I do think it’s important for us to talk about the impact.”

    “There’s no question that if the Affordable Care Act is actually struck down, it’s going to create chaos in our system,” he said. “There’s going to be an enormous amount of work that needs to be done and it’s going to harm millions of Americans.”

    Kaul warned that striking down the ACA could mean that people with pre-existing conditions could once again face higher premiums or even be shut out entirely from getting health insurance. Young people would no longer be guaranteed coverage under their parents’ health insurance up to the age of 26. And it would endanger access to health care for people with mental health problems and people addicted to opioid, methamphetamines, and other drugs, Kaul said.

    “I am proud of the state of Wisconsin is no longer part of this lawsuit,” he said. The state, he added, needs to “make sure that we are shoring up access to health care here in Wisconsin, working to reduce costs and that includes reducing prescription drug prices, but also expanding Medicaid.”

    Calculations by the Center for American Progress in July suggest that as many as 152,000 Wisconsin residents could lose health coverage if the ACA is struck down. (See table.)

    Before Kaul was elected, Wisconsin, under then-Attorney General Brad Schimel and with the support of the Republican-dominated legislature, was among the states suing to block the health care law.

    Kaul and Evers ran vowing to pull the state out of the lawsuit. The legislature barred the Department of Justice  from doing so during the December 2018 lame-duck session curtailing many of the powers of both the incoming governor and the attorney general, but during a brief period when the lame-duck restrictions were lifted by the courts, Kaul succeeded in pulling Wisconsin out.

    Uninsured likely to rise if ACA is struck down

    DistrictIncumbentIncrease in uninsured
    WI-1Bryan Steil19000
    WI-2Mark Pocan21000
    WI-3Ron Kind17000
    WI-4Gwen Moore31000
    WI-5F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.15000
    WI-6Glenn Grothman13000
    WI-7(Seat vacant; Sean Duffy stepped down earlier in 2019)16000
    WI-8Mike Gallagher20000

    Source: Center for American Progress

    Erik Gunn
    Senior Reporter Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, along with related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.