Brown: ‘We Will Not Remain Silent’ as Trump ‘Rips Away Healthcare’

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Democratic attorneys general elsewhere are left to defend the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions without the help of the U.S. Justice Department.

Gov. Kate Brown has teamed up with a group of her fellow Democratic governors across the nation to loudly condemn the Trump administration for its position in a lawsuit that could end health coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions.


“We will not remain silent as Jeff Sessions and the Trump Administration threaten to rip away healthcare from those who need it most,” Brown told a group of state attorneys general in Portland on Thursday.


Sessions is the United States attorney general who, earlier this month, announced the Justice Department would not defend a provision of the Affordable Care Act that guarantees health insurance at no additional cost for people with pre-existing medical conditions.


Texas and several other states with Republican attorneys general have sued the federal government, arguing that without a fine in place to punish people who choose to go uninsured, the law is unconstitutional.


The Republican Congress, with no Democratic support, voted to repeal that individual mandate penalty as part of a massive tax overhaul late last year. The repeal does not take effect until next year; people who go uninsured this year can still expect a penalty on their 2018 tax return.


Oregon Democratic Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has joined with 15 other Democratic attorneys general to defend the law’s constitutionality.


Brown’s remarks in Portland echoed a statement she signed on Wednesday with a group of Democratic governors, including Washington’s Jay Inslee and Montana’s Steve Bullock.


“The unconscionable decision to abandon defending key elements of the law upends long-held, bipartisan tradition, injects unnecessary uncertainty into our states’ insurance markets, and puts the health of tens of millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions — including as many as 17 million children — at risk,” according to the Democratic governors’ joint statement.


“This decision by the DOJ also reverses President Trump’s repeated promise that he would protect people with pre-existing conditions and is yet another example of this administration’s callous attempts to sabotage the healthcare that our constituents depend on.”


Separately, Inslee and Bullock joined with a bipartisan group of governors, including Ohio Republican John Kasich and Nevada Republican Brian Sandoval, to oppose the attempt to strip insurance plans of protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions, but Brown did not sign with this group.


Her major opponent in the November governor’s race, Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, has taken a moderate approach to the Affordable Care Act, supporting much of it but also criticizing the health insurance exchange as unsustainable. He joined other moderate Republicans like Kasich in opposing attempts to weaken the protections for pre-existing conditions:


"As a doctor, I've been on the front lines of taking care of those in need, and as a lawmaker, designing policy to maintain healthcare coverage for as many people as possible," Buehler told The Lund Report through a spokeswoman. "I've witnessed my patients fight for insurance coverage over pre-existing conditions and it is heartbreaking. So I'm a supporter of the requirement that no longer allows health insurance companies to deny coverage based on a pre-existing condition. In Oregon, we need to strive to protect coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, lower healthcare costs and ehance the health of our communities."


In addition to her critique of the latest attack on the ACA, Brown was also critical of the Trump administration’s policy of separating unauthorized immigrant families who are streaming across the southern border of the United States, mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.


“This week, we have seen immigrant children taken from their families, and kept in warehouses, cages, and tents along the border,” she said. “It’s appalling that these children are being used as political pawns by the White House. It’s abhorrent the president should then promote his executive order ending the practice of family separations as some sort of victory.”


Oregon is one of a growing number of states that has refused to send National Guard troops to assist the Trump administration in its border control efforts.


Reach Chris Gray at [email protected].