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Health Care Lawsuits Politicized by Right-Wing, Losing Steam in the States

In the weeks following the signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of health care reform were joined by multiple, conservative Attorneys General from states across the nation, despite widespread condemnation that such challenges were frivolous, wasteful, and almost certain to fail in the courts.  In early April, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius commented that she believed the lawsuits had "more to do with politics than policy."

Now, new reports seem to confirm both partisan political motivation and coordination on the part of those using Attorney General offices to try to obstruct reform.

In Wisconsin, e-mail evidence uncovered by One Wisconsin Now appears to show clear political motivation behind the decision made by Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to join the multi-state lawsuit challenging health care reform.  Correspondence obtained by the organization shows communication between Wisconsin's Deputy Attorney General and the political director of the national Republican State Leadership Committee -- a 527 organization that has been funded in part by the health insurance industry -- in the days before Van Hollen joined the suit. One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross claimed that “Van Hollen owes his election in 2006 to unprecedented special interest spending by big insurance and big business and now he’s paying them back."

The political maneuvering involved was further highlighted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which unearthed e-mail evidence showing that the Wisconsin AG's campaign manager and an outside political consultant in Texas were both consulted about whether to file the lawsuit.  Meanwhile, in South Carolina, Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Henry McMaster has released not one, but two campaign ads touting his involvement in the lawsuit.

Lawsuits Backfiring in a Number of States:  While the anti-reform lawsuits are politically motivated, they may well fail in their ultimate goal of rallying voters.  In Florida, Attorney General Bill McCollum, also running for governor, has been losing support in recent polling, a development which the Associated Press explained by noting that his decision to join the lawsuit "isn't sitting well with independent voters." Similar sentiment can be found in North Carolina, where a new poll shows North Carolinians squarely opposed to joining the lawsuit. In Connecticut, Governor Jodi Rell just this week decided not to join the lawsuit, despite having sharply criticized federal health care reform immediately after it was signed into law.  And in New Mexico, the office of Attorney General Gary King has reportedly seen "a sharp decline in public support" for the anti-reform lawsuit in recent weeks, according to a study by the New Mexico Independent.

Similarly, legislative efforts by the health insurance industry and their allies at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to obstruct reform in the states continue to falter, having already failed in over twenty-two states where ALEC has tried to pass health care nullification bills, while positive steps towards implementation continue to move forward in state after state.

Resources:
Progressive States Network - State Implementation of Federal Reform: Resources
Progressive States Network - Right-Wing Obstruction of Health Care in the States
Slate - Lawsuit Abuse, GOP Style
One Wisconsin Now - Van Hollen Documents Show DOJ-GOP Coordination on Health Reform Lawsuit
Blogging Blue - More on J.B. Van Hollen’s GOP health care connection
Center for American Progress - South Carolina AG Touts His Push For Health Care Repeal In Campaign For Governor
Kaiser Health News - GOP's 'Repeal Health Law' Strategy May Backfire In General Election
Center for American Progress - Unraveling Health Care Reform Would Leave Millions with Less Affordable Care