CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — As West Virginia's incoming attorney general, Republican Patrick Morrisey says he wants a say in how the state operates Medicaid and plans to play a role in whether it follows the recently upheld federal health care law.
Morrisey told reporters and supporters Thursday at a state Capitol press conference that he will also refocus his office's resources on regulations, vowing to challenge those that he concludes harm West Virginia.
While stressing that he wishes to work alongside Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, Morrisey also said that the attorney general can act independently in some of these areas.
"Depending on the issue involved we could technically go forward on our own, but the preference will be to ensure that the governor is going to join us," Morrisey said. "We will review all federal regulations that we think have had an effect on the state of West Virginia and we will not be shy about saying what we think about those regulations."
The 44-year-old Eastern Panhandle lawyer defeated Attorney General Darrell McGraw, a five-term Democrat, in Tuesday's election by 2.5 percent of the vote. West Virginia last had a Republican attorney general in 1933. Morrisey thanked McGraw for his decades of public service, but vowed to end several of McGraw's practices that he attacked during their race.
"I'm going to ban the use of trinkets with my name on it," Morrisey declared to applause. He also said he will keep his name out of any office ads or public service announcements that run within six months before an election.
Morrisey promised to hire outside lawyers only through competitive bids and hand over all court judgments or settlements to the Legislature.
Morrisey previously practiced health care law with a Washington, D.C., firm, and was an aide and lawyer for GOP members of Congress and committees. A foe of the federal health care overhaul, he made it and President Barack Obama — who received less than 36 percent of the West Virginia vote Tuesday — major targets of his campaign.
"I'm going to work hard to try to ensure that those bad parts of Obamacare don't go into effect," Morrisey said. He also said he plans to tell Tomblin and his health officials that, "I think West Virginia should be more forceful in pushing back on these pieces of Obamacare."
Concerning Medicaid, Morrisey said he plans to share his health care background with the governor. Rising health care costs have increased the program's burden on the annual state budget. Tomblin is also weighing whether to expand its coverage, as called for by the federal health care law but ruled non-mandatory by the U.S. Supreme Court.
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