CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is leading a response to a proposed federal rule about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Morrissey said he and attorneys general from 10 other states submitted a comment letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regarding President Obama's recent attempt to "stem the political fallout from canceled health plans by unilaterally rewriting the flawed health care law."
In November, Obama said the government would allow insurance companies to continue offering plans that do not comply with the Affordable Care Act’s mandates.
Morrisey and the other AGs say in the letter, which was sent to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, that they oppose the new rule because the "decision to simply stop enforcing the Affordable Care Act’s mandates in order to revive canceled insurance is “flatly illegal under federal constitutional and statutory law.”
The seven-page letter accuses Obama of violating both his responsibility to execute laws faithfully and the separation of powers between the branches of government.
“We support allowing citizens to keep their health insurance coverage, but any changes to the law must be done legally and through the proper channels,” Morrisey said. “The Administration may not decide single-handedly which parts of the law it will enforce and which parts it will ignore. The only way to fix this problem-ridden law is through congressional action.”
Morrisey was joined in the letter by attorneys general representing Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia.
“We are deeply concerned that this Administration is consistently rewriting new rules and effectively inventing statutory provisions to operationalize a flawed law,” the AGs wrote. “And the irony, of course, is that the changes being put forth to fix the disastrous exchanges will ultimately destroy the market and increase health insurance premiums for customers who played by the rules.”
The attorneys general also wrote in the letter that they are troubled by the continued failure to address widespread public outcry over the security of consumers’ private information as they enroll in health care exchanges. In the letter, the attorneys general say that the proposed rule will weaken already lax privacy standards.
“Each of us is charged with protecting our states’ consumers,” Morrisey said. “Once a person’s private information is breached, it is very hard to ensure it is secure again. We are troubled that the Administration has not even proposed implementing criminal background checks on people who have access to sensitive private information.”
The attorneys general urge HHS to mandate rigorous training, licensing and educational requirements for personnel who deal with sensitive information similar to what is required of private, state-licensed insurance agents and brokers. They also asked HHS to explain how it will assist consumers whose personal information is violated and work in partnership with state consumer protection efforts.
“This comment letter is designed to ensure that the Administration understands the very real concerns several attorneys general have with the law, how it was implemented and how it is now being changed not by the legislative branch as intended by the Constitution, but by the executive branch,” Morrisey said. “We will continue to speak up and voice our concerns until we are sure our consumers are protected and the Administration starts respecting the rule of law. Citizens in our states and throughout the nation deserve no less.”