During their debate Tuesday night, conflicting claims by Indiana 2nd District House candidates Jackie Walorski and Mel Hall might have left voters confused regarding her voting record on health care.
Hall, like Democrats in House races across the country this election season, has attacked the incumbent Republican Walorski for repeatedly voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act and, particularly, its popular protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
“Eleven times,” Hall said to Walorski at the live, televised debate. “Eleven times. Not once, not twice, not three times. Eleven times you voted to take health care away from those with pre-existing conditions. That’s not a matter of opinion. That’s data.”
Hall recently listed the 11 House votes in a tweet he posted in reply to a tweet from Walorski in which she shared a new 30-second TV campaign ad. The ad shows Walorski with her friend, Mary, who has non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a type of cancer.
“Don’t believe the false attacks,” Walorski wrote in the tweet. “I’ve always stood up for Hoosiers with pre-existing conditions like Mary, and I always will.”
Two other times in the debate, Walorski said she had voted to protect coverage for pre-existing conditions.
So who is telling the truth?
To support their debate assertions, both candidates are pointing to some of the same votes that Walorski has cast in the House, leaving the answer in the details. Critics say a careful analysis of those details reveals that Republican candidates have rushed to jump on the bandwagon, proclaiming their support for bills that are very narrow in scope and won’t ultimately be meaningful.
One such vote came on May 4, 2017, when Walorski voted for House Resolution 1628, a GOP-led bill to repeal and replace the ACA, commonly known as “Obamacare.” The bill, named the American Health Care Act, passed the House but not the Senate.
It would have prohibited insurance companies from taking away coverage because of a person’s pre-existing condition, but if the person let the policy lapse — by missing a payment, for example — insurers could dramatically increase premiums, essentially making coverage unaffordable.
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., signed on to the bill after GOP leaders agreed to support his amendment earmarking $8 billion, spread over five years, to help people with pre-existing conditions pay their higher premiums. But many health policy experts have said that amount would be significantly inadequate.
More recently, Walorski signed on as a co-sponsor to H.R. 1121, the “Pre-existing Conditions Protection Act of 2017,” one of several similarly named bills and resolutions sponsored by Republican House members engaged in competitive re-election races this fall.
That rush followed the release last month of a survey, by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, finding that about three-fourths of Americans said it’s “very important” that Obamacare’s pre-existing condition protections remain law.
H.R. 1121 had initially been introduced in February 2017 and had sat idle in a committee since then. Walorski signed on as a cosponsor on Oct. 5, just four days before her campaign started running the “Mary” ad, noted Andrew Galo, Hall’s campaign spokesman.
“It’s essentially a meaningless bill designed to give Republicans cover on the issue of health care/pre-existing conditions,” Galo said. “Walorski’s team is spinning this hard and misleading voters, plain and simple.”
But Walorski campaign manager Stephen Simonetti said “her support for those with pre-existing conditions couldn’t be more clear.”
The national fervor among political candidates to be viewed on the correct side of the issue was evident in a tweet Thursday afternoon from President Trump.
“All Republicans support people with pre-existing conditions,” Trump tweeted, “and if they don’t, they will after I speak with them. I am in total support.”