Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey sparred through the media Wednesday about a bill in the state Legislature affecting insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
Manchin released a letter to all 134 members of the West Virginia Legislature Wednesday, urging them to reject a proposed law championed by Morrisey.
The proposed law would be a safety net for people with pre-existing conditions in the event that a lawsuit seeking to dismantle the Affordable Care Act is successful.
In his letter, Manchin didn’t outright ask lawmakers to vote a certain way or take any particular legislative action.
Instead he asked them to “remember the 800,000 West Virginians living with pre-existing medical conditions” and not to “blow a $1 billion hole in the budget.”
In a conference call with media Wednesday afternoon, Manchin reiterated that the state receives $1 billion from the federal government through the Affordable Care Act.
Manchin said lawmakers already have to overcome a budget deficit this legislative session, and that deficit would grow larger without the Affordable Care Act.
“They have no way of paying for it,” Manchin said.
Later Wednesday afternoon, in his own conference call, Morrisey said people should not let “purveyors of gloom and doom” mislead them with what he said was false information and numbers.
Morrisey didn’t know Wednesday what the full impact of the lawsuit would be, but he said he expected the court’s order would allow time for Congress to respond.
“We want to make sure West Virginia is getting out in front of these issues because we want to protect people with pre-existing conditions,” Morrisey said.
Alongside Senate President Mitch Carmichael and other lawmakers, Morrisey announced the legislation during a news conference on Jan. 7.
Carmichael sponsored a bill to create what he and Morrisey are calling the West Virginia Health Care Act. The bill was introduced Jan. 10, and it’s pending in the Senate’s Banking and Insurance Committee.
Pre-existing conditions are protected under the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare by people who oppose the law.
Morrisey and 18 Republican attorneys general and two governors sued the federal government in February 2018 in an attempt to have a judge rule the law was unconstitutional. The lawsuit particularly challenges part of the Affordable Care Act that requires individuals to purchase insurance coverage, if they aren’t otherwise covered through their employer or another government plan. That part of the law most commonly is referred to as the individual mandate.
Last month, a panel of federal circuit judges ruled the individual mandate was unconstitutional, and sent the case back to its original judge to determine which parts of the Affordable Care Act can remain intact without the individual mandate.
Wednesday was the latest battle between Manchin and Morrisey, who previously faced off in the 2018 election cycle when Morrisey was the Republican challenger to incumbent Manchin. Manchin defeated Morrisey in the general election by about 4 percent of the vote.