BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – Gov. John Bel Edwards on Monday slammed Louisiana’s attorney general for joining a lawsuit aimed at throwing out the federal health overhaul, including protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
The Democratic governor called Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry’s decision to back the Texas-based lawsuit “deeply disturbing.” Edwards said the lawsuit threatens health coverage for 849,000 people in Louisiana who are estimated to have pre-existing health conditions.
“Entering into this lawsuit should not be an impulse decision. It requires thoughtful consideration of the repercussions to the people of Louisiana,” Edwards said in a statement.
Republican governors and attorneys general in 20 states filed the lawsuit in February, a move that Landry announced at the time. The lawsuit argues the Affordable Care Act was rendered unconstitutional after Congress repealed the “individual mandate” that required most Americans to buy insurance or risk a tax penalty.
Landry, a possible challenger to Edwards in the 2019 governor’s race, has long opposed former President Barack Obama’s health care law as an unconstitutional federal overreach.
What sparked Edwards’ ire Monday was Landry’s appearance on CNN, in which he was pressed for an explanation of how Louisiana would ensure insurance coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions if the federal protection was tossed out by a judge.
Landry said in the interview that those types of decisions would be left to state lawmakers, and he suggested a competitive health care market could help people with pre-existing medical conditions find insurance coverage.
“It’s clear he did not think this through,” Edwards said.
Polls show protections for patients with pre-existing medical conditions are favored by consumers.
Landry replied with a statement: “I believe we must ensure coverage for all pre-existing conditions, and I stand ready to work with House Speaker Taylor Barras and other Louisiana leaders to make that happen with a successful outcome in the court.”
Barras, a Republican, said if the Texas-based legal challenge succeeds, he’d support legal protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions “and would encourage the governor to engage the Legislature immediately to review options for Louisiana.” He praised Landry for respecting “the separation of powers.”
“We stand ready to work on maintaining coverage for pre-existing conditions,” Barras said in a statement, without offering specific ideas.