The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office should take the lead in fighting executive actions taken by President Donald Trump’s administration that would pull back on consumer protections, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a contender in the DFL primary for attorney general, said Monday.
At a St. Paul news conference, Ellison said that a lawsuit filed by several Republican attorneys general could threaten provisions under the 2010 Affordable Care Act that guarantee health insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
“There really is no basis to destroy the law,” Ellison said. “I will join with the attorneys general to defend the Affordable Care Act. I will be the public voice to argue and defend the right for people to be covered.”
Ellison received an endorsement Monday from NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota, saying he is “best positioned” to protect reproductive rights. Ellison said he would not defend any law passed by the Minnesota Legislature that he felt unconstitutionally restricted abortion.
Doug Wardlow, the Republican-endorsed candidate for attorney general, said Ellison was putting his “political agenda above the law.”
“Keith Ellison seems to believe that he can pick and choose which laws he would enforce,” Wardlow said in a statement. “The Attorney General is supposed to uphold the rule of law, and Ellison’s willingness to ignore that obligation is deeply troubling.”
The four other DFL candidates for the attorney general’s office in the August primary said that they would also fight Trump administration proposals that would limit health insurance coverage.
“Pre-existing conditions are very important to continue to have covered,” said Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center. She said she would also use the office’s powers to protect against mergers that would limit consumer access.
“You can have access to insurance, but if you don’t have a doctor in sight you can’t get care,” said Hilstrom. “Minnesota has nonprofit HMOs, and the attorney general’s office regulates nonprofits.”
Matt Pelikan, who won the DFL endorsement at the party convention, said he also would sue the federal government to protect health care access, and that he would take action against drug companies.
“From the very beginning I will be taking on the pharmaceutical industry,” Pelikan said. “We have to hold them accountable for out-of-control prescription drug prices and the opioid crisis.”
Tom Foley, former Ramsey County attorney, said he is already taking on the drug industry. He represents 34 Indian tribal entities and 20 rural health care facilities that have been affected by the opioid crisis. He has filed 12 lawsuits in state and federal courts against pharmaceutical companies.
“Rural areas and Indian reservations have been devastated by Big Pharma in the opioid crisis,” Foley said.
Former Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said the Attorney General’s Office should have a larger role in curbing drug costs and controlling opioids.
“I will bring an action against the pharmaceutical industry for deceptive practices and on antitrust grounds,” Rothman said.