Confirmation opponents wary of Kavanaugh on health care
WASHINGTON — Connecticut’s Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal are joining fellow Senate Democrats in focusing on Trump administration threats to the Affordable Care Act as a lead argument against confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
At a news conference Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol, Murphy said he “has no doubt” Kavanaugh will do his utmost to dismantle the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — and its guarantee for coverage for those with pre-existing conditions like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and a host of other chronic conditions.
Murphy, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that oversees health care, pointed to the Kavanaugh nomination as one more arrow in President Trump’s quiver — all aimed at dismantling the Affordable Care Act.
“President Trump wakes up every single day trying to think about new and innovative ways that he could destroy America’s health care,” Murphy said.
“That certainly is going to be a major thrust of our opposition, that he would turn back the clock on American health care and undercut the pillars of ACA,” said Blumenthal in an interview.
The non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation did a state-by-state analysis and concluded about 522,000 in Connecticut have some kind of pre-existing condition that, absent the ACA’s protection, might subject them to loss of insurance or only unaffordable options.
Kaiser Family Foundation has conducted polls on Obamacare and its specific features such as coverage of pre-existing conditions. Overall support for the ACA has hovered in the 50 percent range for the past year or so. And most respondents rank it below President Trump’s performance in office as an issue.
But 65 percent of respondents said continuing coverage for those with pre-existing conditions is “very important” to their choices in the 2018 midterm election, including 51 percent of Republicans, KFF found.
“The ACA as a law doesn’t do as well as its individual components,” said Ashley Kirzinger, a KFF senior survey analyst. “Pre-existing conditions has consistently over time remained of the most favorite provisions of the law. It took people a while to understand that ACA guarantees (coverage), but this is definitely something for which there is support.”
Access Health CT, the state’s exchange for individual-market health insurance plans under the ACA, enrolled 114,134 in Connecticut — a 2.3 percent increase over the previous year. Also, expansion of Medicaid to those just above the poverty line resulted in an additional 55,492 signups.
Roe v. Wade
The prospect of Kavanaugh providing the fifth vote to overturn Roe v. Wade also is a galvanizing argument for Connecticut Democrats and their Senate colleagues. A Quinnipiac University poll last week found that 63 percent support retaining the 1973 precedent legalizing abortion nationwide, while 31 percent say it should be overturned.
As a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Court of Appeals here in Washington, Kavanaugh has not ruled on the merits of Roe v. Wade or the ACA. In 2011, he dissented on technical grounds to a ruling that upheld Obamacare’s universal mandate — the rule that all must have health insurance or pay a tax penalty.
But Kavanaugh did state that if the court ruled that the government could compel individuals to buy health insurance, it could imprison them for failure to do so. And, he wrote, government could use the same logic to force individuals to buy retirement accounts, college savings accounts and life insurance.
“Those are extraordinary words,” Murphy said on Tuesday.
Ultimately, Congress repealed the universal mandate as part of its tax-cut passage passed last December. In addition, the Trump administration has cut funds used for outreach to prospective ACA enrollees, and it ended subsidies to insurance companies that enroll a greater proportion of chronically ill patients.
On abortion, Kavanaugh dissented last year in a case in which the appeals court majority held a 17-year-old immigrant in the country illegally who was in detention should be able to obtain an abortion. Kavanaugh argued the girl should be released to an adult sponsor before making such a decision.
But he didn’t go as far as another conservative on the court who argued Roe v. Wade does not apply to those in the country illegally. The contrast has caused some legal-world conservatives to question Kavanaugh’s commitment to conservative jurisprudence.
Both Blumenthal and Murphy point to Kavanaugh’s inclusion on Trump’s list of 25 pre-screened conservatives _ and the president’s statement that his choices would “automatically” vote to strike Roe v. Wade — as proof of the 53-year-old nominee’s intent.