Republicans Are Running on Health Care for Pre-Existing Conditions. It’s a Lie.
In repeatedly saying they will support policies they have demonstrated they don’t support, the party is degrading a central tenet of democracy.
Congressional Republicans spent much of 2017 trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. After a failed drive to pass a repeal bill—the American Health Care Act—they successfully voted to end the individual mandate, a key element of the law that helps stabilize health insurance markets. The Trump administration has also tried to undermine Obamacare, loosening rules, reducing outreach, slashing payments to insurers, and throwing insurance markets into chaos. And at the state level, Republican attorneys general have filed suit in an effort to abolish the law in its entirety.
Republicans still want to repeal Obamacare, but they’re telling voters the opposite. On the campaign trail, Republican candidates are stalwart defenders of the Affordable Care Act and its most popular provision: a regulation that prohibits insurers from discriminating on the basis of pre-existing conditions. More than obfuscation or spin, this is outright lying. And as they do it, Republicans are showing contempt for voters, and further fraying our ability to do electoral democracy.
“I support forcing insurance companies to cover all pre-existing conditions,” says Josh Hawley, running for Senate in Missouri, in a television ad defending his record from opponent Sen. Claire McCaskill. And yet, as state attorney general, Hawley joined a lawsuit that, if successful, would wipe out the Affordable Care Act, including its protections for patients with pre-existing conditions. The lawsuit, in fact, specifically argues those provisions have no constitutional basis.
In his final debate with challenger Beto O’Rourke, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz similarly pledged to protect those with pre-existing conditions. “We can protect pre-existing conditions, and you need to understand, everyone agrees we’re going to protect pre-existing conditions.” But Cruz is a front-line fighter in the war against Obamacare and has been for years. In 2013, he shut down the federal government in a drive to defund the law. During the 2016 Republican presidential primary, Cruz outlined his vision for health care with a pledge to “repeal every word of Obamacare,” offering an alternative that made no mention of patients with pre-existing conditions. This summer, when asked the lawsuit that would gut the law and those protections, Cruz defended the suit.