Tennessee's top Republicans are watching a lawsuit meant to strike down the Affordable Care Act with mixed emotions. Tennessee is one of 20 states that joined the litigation led by Texas. The first oral arguments occur in a Fort Worth courtroom today.
But the legal argument justifying another court challenge to the ACA is "as far-fetched as any I've ever heard," Senator Lamar Alexander said in June.
"Congress specifically repealed the individual mandate penalty, but I didn’t hear a single senator say that they also thought they were repealing protections for people with pre-existing conditions," Alexander said in a statement.
Last month, as a sort of pre-emptive damage control, he helped introduce a bill that would protect people with pre-existing conditions, even if the lawsuit prevails.
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery hasn't said much since the filing in February — only outlining the core argument, that since the individual mandate is gone, and the ACA hinged on everyone buying insurance, then the entire law is unconstitutional.
Gov. Bill Haslam says the ACA is fundamentally flawed, though he's not explicitly backing the court challenge.
"I'll leave that to the Attorney General to make those calls," Haslam said last week. "To me, there have always been issues around the way the Affordable Care Act was passed and the way (Congress) went about it, in terms of expanding care without making the hard decisions about how do we control costs."
On Wednesday, protesters are gathering outside the attorney general's office — some with pre-existing conditions, themselves — asking that Slatery withdraw Tennessee. Under the previous attorney general, the state did not participate in the last challenge to the ACA, which narrowly lost in the U.S. Supreme Court.