GOP senate candidate vows to protect people with pre-existing conditions while doing the opposite

What is Josh Hawley talking about?

Josh Hawley, the Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri, is trying to have his cake and eat it, too. CREDIT: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Josh Hawley, the Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri, is trying to have his cake and eat it, too. CREDIT: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who is currently running for Senate against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), put out an ad Monday afternoon touting his commitment to protecting people with pre-existing conditions, despite currently working as part of a lawsuit that aims to end protections for pre-existing conditions.

“We’ve got two perfect little boys. Just ask their mama,” Hawley says in the ad, which his campaign shared on Twitter Monday. “Earlier this year, we learned our oldest has a rare chronic disease, a pre-existing condition. We know what that’s like.”

He continues, saying, “I’m Josh Hawley. I support forcing insurance companies to cover all pre-existing conditions — and Claire McCaskill knows it. You deserve a senator who’s driven to fix this mess, not one that’s just trying to hang on to her office, and that’s why I approve this message.”

But just a few months ago, as Missouri’s attorney general, Hawley joined 19 other state attorneys general in a lawsuit led by the state of Texas that aims to strike down the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a whole. After Republicans repealed the ACA’s individual mandate as part of their tax bill last year, the group argues that the ACA is unconstitutional and should be struck down.


Doing so would mean people without pre-existing conditions have no protections in the insurance market. Hawley touted his involvement in the case in a statement in February, saying his office “will continue to fight to take health care choices out of the hands of bureaucrats and return them to the hands of Missourians and their physicians.”

As McClatchy noted earlier this month, Hawley’s office has repeatedly refused to clarify his role in the lawsuit, saying only, “Missouri is one of 20 states involved in the lawsuit. Texas is lead counsel. Now that the case has been submitted to the court, the parties are largely awaiting the court’s decision. To the extent that there is additional work to be done, AGO attorneys are coordinating with their co-counsel in other states.”

His office also argues that the lawsuit is about the individual mandate specifically and not about pre-existing conditions.


“This lawsuit is about the individual mandate. It’s unconstitutional for the government to force us to buy something we don’t want. Senator McCaskill would have you believe that the only way to cover pre-existing conditions is to keep all the failures of Obamacare,” Hawley said in a statement to McClatchy recently.

He’s made similar arguments a number of times, saying on Twitter last month, “I will work to get the healthcare reforms MO families desperately need, including protections for those with pre-existing conditions. We shouldn’t be holding patients hostage with Obamacare.”

And while Hawley and his campaign have tried to differentiate between protections for pre-existing conditions and protections for Obamacare, the idea that the lawsuit onto which Hawley signed is only about the individual mandate is patently untrue. Should the states challenging the law win, the ACA as a whole would be dismantled, including protections for pre-existing conditions.

Hawley also says he also supports a shield law for people with pre-existing conditions spearheaded by Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) that would, if Hawley’s lawsuit prevailed, keep in place protections for pre-existing conditions anyway, which only raises the question of why Hawley signed onto the lawsuit in the first place, if he doesn’t support the consequences of its success.

McCaskill, Hawley’s general election opponent, is one of 10 Democratic senators running for reelection in states Trump won in 2016. On average, Hawley has led McCaskill by about half a percentage point in the polls.

His campaign did not respond to requests for comment from ThinkProgress.