If lawsuit destroys Obamacare, Missourians who lose coverage have Josh Hawley to thank

Josh Hawley’s most memorable ad as a U.S. Senate candidate was the one in which he looked into the camera and said he had very personal reasons for wanting to force insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing health conditions.

“Earlier this year, we learned our oldest has a rare chronic disease. A pre-existing condition.” As a father who would hardly want his young son Elijah’s degenerative bone disease to disqualify him from coverage, he would never do anything to undermine that protection for all Americans. “I support forcing insurance companies to cover all pre-existing conditions,” he said.

This was news, not because his son’s condition is anyone’s business, but because in Hawley’s brief tenure as Missouri’s attorney general, one of the most notable things he did was join a legal effort to end the Affordable Care Act, a major tenet of which does require insurers to cover pre-existing conditions.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has estimated that 52 million Americans ages 18 to 64 have pre-existing conditions that would have gotten their coverage denied before the Affordable Care Act went into effect.

When Hawley began campaigning as a protector of those with pre-existing conditions, we noted that if the Texas lawsuit he and other Republican attorneys general and governors had joined were to succeed, then many Missourians — between 1.1 million and 2.5 million, according to Politifact — would lose certain parts of their coverage, would have to pay significantly higher premiums or would lose their insurance altogether.

As of this week, that outcome seems likelier than ever after a federal appeals court in New Orleans heard arguments in the case, which will decide whether the health care law is still constitutional.

When the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that it was, it based that finding on the power Congress has to levy a tax, because that’s what the penalty for not buying insurance under the bill’s individual mandate really is. So when Congress reduced that penalty to zero in 2017, did it succeed in making the mandate unconstitutional, and with it the whole law?

The two GOP-appointed judges on the three-judge panel seemed inclined to agree with Hawley et al that the law shouldn’t stand, and the case could go to the Supreme Court before next year’s elections.

Last October, reporters asked Hawley how he could possibly promise to uphold coverage for those with pre-existing conditions while simultaneously suing to do away with the law that had for the first time guaranteed that exact protection? He answered that his plan was to get rid of the law, but replace it with the much better version he’d work on if elected to the Senate.

“We don’t have to have Obamacare in order to cover people with pre-existing conditions,” he said.

In theory, we don’t, but where’s the better alternative he promised?

We asked his communications director and have not received a response.

Meanwhile, excuse us if we suspect that Hawley’s promise during his Senate campaign to protect those with pre-existing conditions was a lot like the most memorable promise of his campaign for attorney general. Back then, he swore he wasn’t one of those “ladder-climbing politicians” who’d use the job as a stepping stone to higher office. Then, less than a year after he was sworn in as Missouri’s attorney general, he launched his campaign for higher office.