Michigan Truth Squad: Michigan Democratic Party attacks Bill Schuette on health care | Michigan Radio
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Michigan Truth Squad: Michigan Democratic Party attacks Bill Schuette on health care

Sep 7, 2018

The Michigan Democratic Party is accusing Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette of hypocrisy for telling people as he campaigns for governor that he supports insurance coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions, given that as attorney general he joined suits to strike down the Affordable Care Act, which includes those protections.

Truth Squad finds the claim overheated, but fair.

The claim: “Now that Bill Schuette’s disastrous healthcare agenda is becoming a major campaign issue, he is trying to claim that he will ‘make sure you have coverage for pre-existing conditions,’” the Michigan Democratic Party wrote in a recent news release. “However, the truth is Schuette spent years filing lawsuits to rip healthcare away from people with pre-existing conditions and is refusing to stand up to the Trump Administration’s ongoing attempt to take their coverage away.”

At a late August campaign stop in Ottawa County, Schuette told a crowd: “I want to make sure you have coverage for pre-existing conditions.”

The Michigan Democratic Party has made that statement the centerpiece of a media campaign attacking Schuette on his health care record.

Schuette, elected in 2010 as Michigan Attorney General, has made it no secret that he opposes former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, the Affordable Care Act. (“When I'm governor we will work to repeal & replace Obamacare,” he tweeted March 23.)

As attorney general, Schuette’s office has joined multiple lawsuits challenging the ACA, known as “Obamacare,” by making Michigan a party in the suit or via an amicus brief.

In 2014, his spokeswoman said in a statement: “Attorney General Schuette will fight at every turn to rein in this unrestrained expansion of federal authority."

That same year, Schuette filed a brief in support of a federal lawsuit, Halbig v. Sebelius, arguing that tax subsidies to buy health insurance shouldn’t go to residents of states, like Michigan, that didn’t establish their own, state-level health insurance marketplace. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately upheld the subsidies.

Schuette also intervened in another case, National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, that challenged the constitutionality of both the individual mandate — that Americans had to buy health insurance — and a provision to expand Medicaid. The Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate and made the Medicaid expansion optional for states. More recently, Schuette did not join a lawsuit brought by 20 states seeking to invalidate the ACA after the federal tax overhaul eliminated the tax penalty tied to the individual mandate.

In his defense, Schuette has said since at least 2014 that, despite his opposition to the ACA, he still supported keeping protections for pre-existing conditions. “Bill has consistently said that the ACA must be replaced with a reformed healthcare system at the federal level that keeps key provisions including pre-existing condition coverage,” campaign spokesman John Sellek wrote Bridge in an email.

At the time the suits were announced, Schuette’s office expressed concern about the ACA’s constitutional overreach (2011) and the need to protect religious liberty (2012). There is little evidence, however, that his opposition was ever driven by a desire to prevent ill people from obtaining health insurance.

That said, the thrust of the Democratic attack is about Schuette’s actions, not his words. And in joining litigation to strike down Obamacare without presenting concrete plans for how Michiganders with pre-existing conditions could preserve the same access to health care, Schuette opened the door to legitimate debate (and partisan criticism) about his track record.

Truth Squad finds Michigan Democratic Party’s claims to be fair.