Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna (R) is one of about two dozen GOP state attorneys general who asked Tea Party Judge Roger Vinson to strike down the entire Affordable Care Act. After Vinson’s error-laden opinion took McKenna up on his suggestion, however, McKenna has suddenly decided that he doesn’t want anyone to know that he is fighting to take health insurance away from young Americans, drive up the cost of prescription drugs for seniors, and allow insurance companies to deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions:
An e-mail was circulated earlier this month by a member of Congress accusing me of trying to “wipe out” the entire health care reform law, eliminate health care coverage for children with congenital heart defects, and take prescription drugs away from seniors. Hours later, Gov. Chris Gregoire, flanked by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, accused me of trying to have the entire law thrown out. She raised the specter that many seniors would each lose $250 worth of coverage and small business people would lose tax credits, among other ominous claims. [...]
I have publicly stated from the beginning that there are specific parts of the 2,700-page law that I believe are unconstitutional, and that these parts should be struck down and severed from the remainder. Federal Judge Henry Hudson reached the same conclusion in Virginia’s challenge to the individual health insurance mandate. Judge Vinson, in the 26-state case in Florida, disagreed and invalidated the entire law. While I believe that the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately agree with Judge Hudson, the Vinson ruling against severability highlights the needless risk taken by Congress in incorporating the mandate while deleting the severability clause.
McKenna may have “publicly stated” that he does not believe that children with preexisting conditions should immediately be kicked off their health plans, but his actions betray his words. If McKenna truly doesn’t want health insurers to be allowed to take away someone’s insurance the minute they get sick, than he should take his name off of the many legal filings asking the courts to strike down the entire Affordable Care Act.
Nevertheless, it is quite significant that McKenna is running away from his own opposition to the ACA just weeks after scoring a brief victory in Judge Vinson’s court. While conservatives have succeeded in turning much of the country against the ACA by telling tall tales about “death panels” and “government takeovers,” the ACA’s actual provisions are wildly popular. More than 7 in 10 Americans approve of the law’s insurance industry regulations, subsidies for low and middle income Americans, expanded Medicare prescription drug coverage for seniors, and tax credits for small businesses who provide insurance to their employees. Even the provision requiring all Americans to either carry insurance or pay slightly more income taxes receives broad support when people understand that this provision is necessary to make the law’s insurance regulations function properly.
So McKenna may be the first right-wing official to run away from his own record on health care once people begin to understand exactly what his radical agenda entails, but he is unlikely to be the last.