On eve of court hearing, Democratic group unleashes ad blitz against Reyes and other GOP attorneys general fighting to topple Obamacare

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is shown in this Aug. 21, 2018, file photo speaking at a news conference on a national suicide hotline bill being signed into law. The Democratic Attorneys General Association is using an ad blitz to go after Reyes and other Republican attorneys general who have joined the court challenge to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

The Democratic Attorneys General Association is rolling out an ad blitz that takes aim at Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes for supporting a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act.

The six-figure ad campaign will also target Republican attorneys general in Louisiana, Missouri, Indiana and West Virginia, all of whom have backed the anti-Obamacare case that is scheduled for a Tuesday court hearing.

“The health care debate is often limited to what is happening in Congress when the real action is happening at the state A.G. level in and out of the courtroom,” Farah Melendez, political director for the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA), said in a prepared statement. “If you care about your health care, you need to care about who your attorney general is — and where they stand on health care.”

The ads paid for by DAGA focus on the number of Utahns who would lose health coverage if the ACA is overturned in court.

About 195,000 Utahns enrolled in individual insurance plans through the ACA’s federal exchanges for 2019, and the Urban Institute has estimated that 102,000 nonelderly Utahns would lose insurance with full repeal of Obamacare. Nearly 20 million nonelderly Americans would become uninsured if the ACA were overturned, according to the institute.

Reyes’ office responded to the ad campaign by saying the nation should "focus its attention on finding real solutions to our broken health care system.”

“The reality is, that’s simply not happening under the unconstitutional and unsustainable Affordable Care Act (ACA) and a six-figure ad blitz full of personal attacks is not going to change that,” the statement said.

DAGA spokeswoman Lizzie Ulmer said her organization tries to educate voters about the role of state attorneys general and found that health care played a central role in flipping four of these seats from red to blue in the 2018 elections.

Reyes was among the 20 attorneys general who last year filed the legal challenge to the ACA. The suit contends that the act was invalidated by Congress’ decision to eliminate the tax penalty for the individual mandate, and a federal judge in Texas in December agreed that the health care law is unconstitutional. President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice has supported the effort to strike down Obamacare.

A coalition of Democratic attorneys general appealed the ruling, and oral arguments in the case are slated for Tuesday.

“Utah has always believed that the ACA was an impermissible overreach of federal authority,” Reyes said in a news release when the lawsuit was filed. “This lawsuit will clear the path for the states and Congress to move forward with solutions that work better for Americans and are in line with constitutional limits on government power.”

In a statement this week, representatives of Reyes’ office say they expect that the case will be resolved in the U.S. Supreme Court and that Obamacare will be overturned.

"We look forward to assisting the Utah Legislature to prepare for this outcome and begin working now on a new system of health care that safeguards preexisting conditions and assures coverage doesn’t lapse when the legal case is resolved.”

With its ad blitz, DAGA is targeting attorneys general who would be up for reelection in the 2019-2020 cycle, according to its news release.

The advertisements appeared in print Sunday in The Salt Lake Tribune and other newspapers that circulate in the states represented by the five involved attorneys general. The campaign will also advertise online for the rest of this week and has launched a website slamming Reyes and his four counterparts in other states, the DAGA news release stated.

Republicans have held the Utah attorney general’s office since 2001 despite scandals that enveloped Reyes’ two Republican predecessors. No Democratic names have so far emerged as potential 2020 candidates for the office.