Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks during the Texas Republican Convention in San Antonio in June. (Julia Rehis / KUT)
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is challenging the Affordable Care Act at a hearing in federal court in Fort Worth today.
Paxton is leading a lawsuit filed by 20 Republican state attorneys general across the country. They argue that when Congress passed a tax bill this year eliminating a part of the law requiring people to buy health insurance, the whole law became unconstitutional.
The State of Texas has filed multiple lawsuits against the law, also known as Obamacare. In past statements, Paxton’s office has said the lawsuit takes aim at “Washington’s unconstitutional control of the American healthcare system.”
“Texans should be free again to make their own healthcare choices, including which doctor they want to see,” Marc Rylander, director of communications for the Office of the Attorney General, said earlier this year.
Democrat Justin Nelson, who is challenging Ken Paxton for attorney general, has focused much of his campaign on the lawsuit. He said Paxton’s legal argument is frivolous and threatens protections in the law.
“I don’t think any objective observer of this lawsuit would say it is likely to succeed,” he said.
Nelson said Congress has the ability to remove Obamacare protections for people with pre-existing conditions, but it decided not to.
He said if he is elected, he will withdraw Texas from the lawsuit on his first day in office.
“It is a political lawsuit that is a waste of Texas taxpayer money,” he said. “And if it is successful, it’s going to cost millions and millions of people their pre-existing condition coverage for health insurance.”
Because the Trump administration has decided not to defend the health care law in court, Democratic attorneys general led by California will be defending it.
In court briefs, Paxton has said if the judge decides not to strike down the law in its entirety, he should eliminate Obamacare protections in just those states that are challenging it.
That means a popular part of the law that protects people with pre-existing conditions from being denied health insurance or being priced out of a health plan could be eliminated in Texas, for example, but not in California.