Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and a number of other vulnerable conservatives are trying to run on a platform of protecting people with pre-existing conditions while fighting to kill the law that ensures them.
“Covering pre-existing conditions is personal to me. Plus, it’s the right thing to do,” Walker wrote in a tweet Monday.
“As long as I’m governor, people with pre-existing conditions will always be covered,” he vowed on Sunday.
But while Walker is trying to push that narrative in his race, which he trails by as much as 10 points, he is actively fighting to kill protections for those with pre-existing conditions that were enshrined in Obamacare.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Walker personally ordered Attorney General Brad Schimel to join a lawsuit against the federal government earlier this year to overturn the Affordable Care Act, which bans insurers from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions.
“At a minimum, the states asked Judge Reed O’Connor to strike down in their states the parts of the law that prohibit health insurance companies from refusing to cover people with pre-existing health conditions or charging them higher rates,” the Sentinel reports “A preliminary injunction or final ruling declaring the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional would affect more than the roughly 17 million people who have gained health insurance through the law and the people with health conditions.”
Tony Evers, the Democrat who leads Walker in nearly every poll released since June, demanded Walker pull out of the lawsuit rather than make empty promises.
“Scott Walker, if you’re watching, I have a challenge for you,” Evers said in a video. “If you want to protect the millions of Wisconsinites with a pre-existing condition, drop Wisconsin from this lawsuit today. Because actions speak louder than empty political promises.”
Walker is far from the only Republican claiming to support protections for people with pre-existing conditions while actively working to destroy them.
“We need to cover pre-existing conditions,” said Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who is running to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. But like Schimel, Hawley signed onto the lawsuit seeking to dismantle the ACA.
“In reality, Hawley and other Republicans have no concrete or well-developed plan for replacing the law with something that would provide the same kind of access,” HuffPost reported. “If either the lawsuit he supports or repeal legislation were successful, people with cancer, diabetes and a variety of other chronic conditions would have a much tougher time getting comprehensive coverage.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is now the Republican nominee for US Senate, is also campaigning on defending pre-existing condition protections – but his state has also joined the lawsuit, and Scott has repeatedly called on Congress to repeal Obamacare.
A number of congressional lawmakers who votes to repeal the law are now also running as defenders of the protections they voted to kill. Arizona US Senate candidate Martha McSally joined with the rest of the GOP to vote to repeal and replace Obamacare but now claims she voted for a bill that would protect those with pre-existing conditions. The Washington Post Fact Checker rated her claim “3 Pinocchios,” noting it would not provide anywhere close to the protections that are included in the ACA.
Republicans running from their own record on healthcare shows how much the narrative has shifted. Since 2010, Republicans have run against Obamacare. This year, Democrats are running on Obamacare. The Wesleyan Media Project reports that half of all Democratic ads have been focused on healthcare.
It seems to be working. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll in August, 72 percent of voters believe protections for people with pre-existing conditions should remain the law. According to a Fox News poll published earlier this month, half of voters say Democrats would do a better job on healthcare, compared to just 34 percent who said Republicans would do a better job on healthcare.
"Republicans are stuck on defense, forced to respond to devastatingly effective ads on their record on pre-existing conditions, and touting nonbinding resolutions as they panic because they see the political fallout,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Tyler Law told The Hill.
"Republicans clearly recognize how politically disastrous their policies are in regards to pre-existing conditions,” he added. “They are now just making up an alternative record on which all of a sudden they seem to care about pre-existing conditions.”