June 23, 2020/Press

Tillis Faces “Risk” Pushing Health Care Repeal During Pandemic

Senator Tillis is facing growing “risk” thanks to his reckless support for efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the vital protections it offers for people with pre-existing conditions, according to a new report in the New York Times. Even Republican strategists are warning, “It’s pretty dumb to be talking about how we need to repeal Obamacare in the middle of a pandemic.”

Last year, Senator Tillis threw his full support behind the Republican lawsuit to repeal the ACA, saying, “I support anything that ultimately takes [the ACA] off the table.” His reckless decision to support a dangerous lawsuit will come into “sharp focus” this week, as the White House files briefs this Thursday in support of the lawsuit. On top of that, Senator Tillis has reiterated his support for blocking Medicaid expansion, bragging, “I am the Speaker of the House who signed the bill that made it illegal to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.”

Those positions are dangerous, even before the current pandemic. Now, as concerns grow that “infection with Covid-19 will become a pre-existing condition” and racial disparities in care are exposed, Senator Tillis’ health care agenda is growing even more toxic with voters.

“With coronavirus cases spiking in North Carolina and families worried what the current health and economic crises mean for the future of their health care, Senator Tillis remains steadfast in believing that we should gut vital protections for people with pre-existing health conditions, repeal the ACA, and not expand Medicaid,” NCDP spokesperson Robert Howard said. “Senator Tillis will have to explain to voters why his health care policy is to make it harder for people to access life-saving care.”

New York Times: G.O.P. Faces Risk From Push to Repeal Health Law During Pandemic
By Sheryl Gay Stolberg
June 22, 2020

Key Points:

  • Republicans are increasingly worried that their decade-long push to repeal the Affordable Care Act will hurt them in the November elections, as coronavirus cases spike around the country and millions of Americans who have lost jobs during the pandemic lose their health coverage as well.
  • The issue will come into sharp focus this week, when the White House is expected to file legal briefs asking the Supreme Court to put an end to the program, popularly known as Obamacare.
  • Republicans have long said their goal is to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act but have yet to agree on an alternative. This week’s back-to-back developments… has put Republicans in a difficult spot, strategists say.
  • “Politically, it’s pretty dumb to be talking about how we need to repeal Obamacare in the middle of a pandemic,” said Joel White, a Republican strategist who specializes in health policy and has presented legislative proposals to House and Senate Republicans and the White House.
  • Health care is consistently near the top of the list of issues voters care about. While Republicans and President Trump tend to have an edge on the economy, Democrats won the House in 2018 in large part by emphasizing health care — a playbook they intend to revive in 2020. The pandemic has also put Republicans at risk of losing the Senate, said Jessica Taylor, who analyzes Senate races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
  • “There are a lot of factors that have put the Senate into play, but the pandemic and how it has affected health care and the economy is a major one that have made these races competitive,” Ms. Taylor said.
  • Democrats need to win three Senate seats to take the majority if they also win the White House, four if they do not. Although Cook Political deems one Democratic incumbent, Senator Doug Jones of Alabama, an underdog in his race, it also rates Senate races in five states — North Carolina, Maine, Colorado, Arizona and Montana — as tossups. All have Republican incumbents.
  • But with people now worried that infection with Covid-19 will become a pre-existing condition, Democrats say the health law — which requires insurers to cover such conditions — is becoming more attractive to voters.
  • The coronavirus has changed the national discussion around health care in ways that go beyond the issue of cost. The pandemic has exposed racial disparities in care, making health care a more important issue for African-Americans and Latinos, core Democratic constituencies. And with everyone at risk from a fast-spreading, and sometimes fatal, infectious disease, Democrats have an easier time making the case that everyone should be covered.
  • “For years, Republicans banked on the idea that people didn’t care about other people’s health care — that you would only care about your own, and their entire campaign against the Affordable Care Act was built on that assumption,” said Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist who specializes in health care messaging. “People now see a clear and present threat when others don’t have health care,” he said. “Republicans have no response to that because their entire worldview on health care is built on an assumption that’s now out of date.”