Dozens of women sue Attorney General McKenna

Suit says his part in health law fight puts access to care at risk




Local angle

At least two Clark County women have committed to signing on as plaintiffs in the lawsuit against state Attorney General Rob McKenna.

One is Clark County Democrats’ Chairwoman Kathleen Lawrence.

The other is Val Alexander of La Center, a retired registered nurse who has had thyroid cancer. Alexander released a statement Thursday expressing her gratitude for the Affordable Care Act.

“I’m at home now with a tracheostomy that requires maintenance and medical supplies so that I can breathe,” Alexander said. “Fortunately, this has not been a huge financial burden on me, and I have not had to give up my home because of it. If that were the case, I would be a burden on the government for assisted living.”

She said the Affordable Care Act will help women in need afford their medical care, as well as keep many of them from depending on financial assistance from the state.

“During my career, I have seen so many instances of women desperately needing health care assistance, as I worked in public health for a few years,” Alexander said. “The services were most often for birth control, cancer screening and child health assistance.”

SEATTLE — Dozens of women filed a lawsuit Thursday against Attorney General Rob McKenna, alleging that his participation in legal action seeking to overturn the new federal health care law threatens access to comprehensive coverage for women.

The politically charged lawsuit is seeking a ruling that McKenna violated his ethical duties by asking the Supreme Court to invalidate protections for women’s health care. It claims that his actions go against the wishes of his clients, the residents of Washington state.

As of Thursday morning, 90 women had signed on as plaintiffs in the case.

McKenna, a GOP candidate for governor, joined other GOP attorneys general in the federal health care lawsuit more than a year ago. He objected to a provision that required people to buy private health insurance or face a fine.

He said that mandate was unconstitutional, though he supported other parts of the federal overhaul. The new lawsuit targets his efforts to overturn the whole law — not just the part he disagrees with.

The women say they want to force McKenna to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to maintain women’s health care requirements, no matter how justices rule on the individual mandate.

McKenna’s campaign manager, Randy Pepple, said the lawsuit was a frivolous attempt to change topics in the gubernatorial campaign from former congressman Jay Inslee’s “lack of solutions for solving the problems facing Washington state.”

The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, noted that McKenna chose to follow the action of other states rather than his own statements and the wishes of his clients. Lawyers for the plaintiffs from the public interest law firm of Smith & Lowney PLLC say McKenna’s actions are not in the best interest of Washington state and its residents, which he is obligated by law to represent.

In a statement, the attorney general’s office said the lawsuit McKenna joined challenging the health care legislation was the best way to address concerns about the individual mandate.