UPDATED MEMO: Health Care Is On Every Ballot, From Top To Bottom
September 24, 2020
QUOTE FROM CHAIRS OF THE DNC, DSCC, DCCC, DGA, DAGA AND DLCC
“There is no question that access to affordable health care is on the ballot this November. Republicans have made it clear time and again their only position is to repeal the ACA—and with it eliminate Medicaid expansion and protections for more than 100 million people with pre-existing conditions. In the middle of a global health crisis that has taken the lives of more than 200,000 Americans—they still offer no replacement. Americans know that Republicans won’t protect their health care and there’s no greater proof point than the fact that the GOP continues to plow ahead with their lawsuit to overturn the entire health care law amid a pandemic. We’re going to keep reminding voters of Republicans’ toxic efforts to gut their health care over the final weeks of this election.”
Democrats experienced tremendous electoral success in 2017, 2018, and 2019 by running on health care. Democrats flipped 435 state legislative seats, four state AG seats, nine governors’ seats, three Senate seats, and 40 seats in the US House, as well as control of the Speaker’s gavel by promising to work to lower health care and prescription drug costs, expand access, and oppose Republican attacks on Americans’ health care. Since those wins, Democrats at all levels of government have kept those promises, using their offices to expand Medicaid, work to lower health care and prescription drug costs, defend the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in court, and stand firmly against Republican efforts to eliminate protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions.
Health care remains top of mind for voters in the 2020 elections, and Democrats have continued to focus on this defining issue this cycle. The COVID-19 pandemic has only served to underscore the urgency of our efforts to protect Americans’ access to affordable health care. New polling shows that nearly a majority of Americans, 48%, want to see the Affordable Care Act expanded and that Americans want to keep or expand the ACA by a margin of 11 points.
The Republican Attorneys General lawsuit—with support from the Trump Administration—would eliminate the ACA, including protections for more than 100 million Americans with pre-existing conditions and other benefits. This issue is even more stark as a public health crisis that has killed more than 200,000 Americans hits the six-month mark, with many experts saying it’s likely to continue well into 2021.
The GOP’s reckless lawsuit puts in jeopardy the ACA’s protections for the newly jobless, Medicaid recipients, and Americans battling COVID-19. The lawsuit risks eliminating coverage protections for vaccinations, essential health benefits, and other provisions that doctors, hospitals, and public health experts have deemed essential to combating the epidemic. And, if the GOP lawsuit is successful, the millions of Americans who have tested positive for COVID-19 or antibodies and may now have a pre-existing condition will face sky-rocketing coverage rates.
One week after Election Day, Republican Attorneys General will be at the Supreme Court using taxpayer dollars trying to take health care away from those same taxpayers. Republicans have talked about a hypothetical “repeal & replace” strategy for a decade, but this November, they will argue for repeal with no credible replacement in sight, ripping away coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
Republican Attorneys General (several of whom ran for governor or U.S. Senate and three of whom are running for re-election this November) filed the litigation in Texas v. Azar – now called California v. Texas. The Trump Administration joined their cause, and House Republicans repeatedly voted in favor of the Trump Administration’s efforts. In fact, the House and Senate Republicans’ vote for the GOP tax law made the entire lawsuit possible. Then, Republicans doubled down on their efforts to terminate the Affordable Care Act, even as it became undeniable that the law is a critical tool for combating the virus.
President Trump has broken his promises to make health care widely available. Meanwhile, President Trump keeps lying to Americans about protecting their health care — but he has already broken his biggest health care promises. Trump promised that whoever “wanted health care” would have it under his administration, but the Trump-backed lawsuit could cause more than 20 million Americans to lose their insurance. Trump promised he would put a stop to rising health care costs and even reduce them — but his lawsuit would raise out-of-pocket costs for premiums and prescription drugs. Trump promised to support pre-existing condition protections and said that costs for people with pre-existing conditions would be “much lower” under his leadership — but his lawsuit would end these vital protections. And Trump promised to protect Medicaid — but his lawsuit would end access to Medicaid for millions of Americans enrolled through the ACA’s expansion program.
Republicans at all levels own this lawsuit’s attack on Americans’ health care. They will be held responsible for their party-wide obsession with throwing our health care system into chaos and stripping health care from 23 million Americans during a global pandemic. Republican governors and state legislators haven’t waited for the Supreme Court to issue a decision in California v. Texas, either. Their opposition to expanding Medicaid already endangers health care access for millions of Americans during this crisis.
‘REPUBLICANS CAN’T AFFORD TO LITIGATE HEALTH CARE AGAIN’
While Trump and Republican Attorneys General refuse to back out of the ACA repeal lawsuit, Republicans in tough races are struggling to distance themselves from their party’s toxic effort to eliminate protections for pre-existing conditions, while at the same time refusing to oppose it. U.S. Attorney General William Barr warned the Trump Administration before its deadline for filing its brief in California v. Texas that seeking to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act would hurt Republicans in the November elections, and as one senior Republican strategist told CNN in May, “Republicans can’t afford to litigate health care for the second election in a row.”
Their votes to gut the ACA have proved a “stumbling block” for vulnerable Senate Republicans, whose anti-health care records are now a “political liability” in tight Senate races and who are airing false and misleading campaign ads attempting to “obscure” their records on pre-existing conditions. Endangered House Republican Rodney Davis changed his position on whether to open the ACA’s health insurance marketplace depending upon who was interviewing him. Republican gubernatorial candidates have attempted to have it both ways on this issue – in Montana, Greg Gianforte has said he would continue to vote to dismantle the ACA, piece by piece, while pretending Montana’s popular Medicaid expansion doesn’t rely on the ACA’s existence. Even a few Republican Attorneys General in swing states like New Hampshire, Ohio & Montana chose to file briefs in support of parts of the law.
Publicly available polling on health care is stark for Republicans. In May, Navigator Polling found that 53 percent of registered voters disapprove of the President’s handling of health care and that voters trust Democrats in Congress to improve the health care system over the President by a 14-point margin. Similarly, a late April DCCC poll of 41 Trump-won districts and 23 Clinton-won districts found that Republicans are most vulnerable on health care – with 62 percent of likely general election voters souring on Republicans after hearing they are still attacking health care amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Morning Consult/Politico polling found that the majority of Americans disapproved of the President’s decision to keep the health insurance marketplaces closed. The latest Kaiser Family Foundation national poll this month found that Americans approve of the ACA by a +7 margin. Democratic governors, working closely with public health experts, have also received higher approval ratings for their leadership during this crisis than their Republican counterparts.
We only need to turn to the story of Medicaid expansion to see how this will play out for Republicans in just a few weeks. After years of fighting and losing this health care battle, the former head of the RGA declared: “The battle has been fought and lost on Medicaid expansion.” The message may not have reached every Republican however: in North Carolina, where Democratic Governor Roy Cooper has navigated the state through the crisis, his Republican opponent still opposes Medicaid expansion and has refused to oppose the ACA lawsuit which would undermine the health care of millions. And just last month, Missouri voters supported a ballot initiative to bring Medicaid expansion to their state—proving that access to affordable health care is still on the top of minds for voters and a winning message in “red” states.
DEMOCRATS CONTINUE TO BE ON OFFENSE
With the ACA and its coverage protections for pre-existing conditions “in greater danger than ever” after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing, it’s far too late for Republicans to walk back their years of attacks on the Affordable Care Act and the lifeline it provides to millions of Americans. For more than a decade, Republicans have been the architects of countless votes to repeal, lawsuits, electoral blockades, and executive intransigence that continue to threaten access to affordable health care for millions while the nation battles a deadly virus.
In the presidential campaign, the DNC is holding Trump accountable each day by responding to his false claims about protecting Americans’ health care, highlighting how he is trying to take health care away from millions during a pandemic, and holding events in key battleground states with state leaders, surrogates, and everyday Americans who can personalize and define Trump’s disastrous health care agenda and his failed leadership in the midst of this pandemic. From the beginning, Trump has lied to the American people, admitting he downplayed the seriousness of the virus early on, leading to more lives lost, more people sick, and more jobs lost. Meanwhile, Vice President Biden has been demonstrating he has the strong, steady leadership and experience to guide our country out of this crisis and help build our economy back better.
At the U.S. Senate level, vulnerable Republicans are being held accountable for voting to gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions, enabling their party’s lawsuit to overturn the entire health care law, confirming a slew of anti-health care judges, and defending ‘junk’ insurance plans. But instead of taking responsibility, GOP senators are trying to mislead voters. Independent fact checkers have been forced to debunk Republicans’ false claims that they support protections for people with pre-existing conditions when “their records show the opposite.” From threatening Medicaid expansion and backing cuts to Medicare, to blocking meaningful prescription drug reform, health care is losing terrain for Republicans because they are on the wrong side of what is still voters’ top concern. Flipping the Senate will mean protecting the progress we’ve made on health care, bringing down costs, and expanding access to coverage.
At the congressional level, Democrats will continue to hold Republicans accountable for their votes to repeal the ACA and their continued support of the Republican lawsuit. Republicans lost the majority in 2018 in part because of their votes to eliminate protections for Americans battling pre-existing conditions. In 2020, they’ll have to defend their votes to let insurance companies discriminate against patients battling COVID-19. House Republicans twice voted to support the Republican ACA lawsuit – and Republican challengers have continued to support repealing the ACA. House Democrats will continue to remind voters that our majority is the firewall against Washington Republican efforts to take away their health care during this pandemic.
At the gubernatorial level, Democratic governors will continue to fight for Medicaid expansion and hold Republican nominees and governors accountable for the human cost of opposing expanded access to health care. In gubernatorial races in 11 states this year, Democrats are making the case for evidence-based policymaking that protects lives and livelihoods. The DGA will also hold Republicans accountable for opposing widely popular and life-saving policies like Medicaid expansion, targeted restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and commonsense safety nets that would protect Americans from the fallout of unforeseeable emergencies.
At the state attorney general level, there is no clearer distinction for voters than Democratic Attorneys General at the Supreme Court defending the right to meaningful health care and Republican Attorneys General on the other side trying to take that health care away. The three Republican AG incumbents running for re-election this year—Missouri AG Eric Schmitt, Utah AG Sean Reyes, and West Virginia AG Patrick Morrisey—are part of the GOP coalition using taxpayer dollars to take health care away. All Republican AG candidates running this year support the repeal of the ACA. In fact, in the toss up race for Montana Attorney General, GOP candidate Austin Knudsen specifically cited his desire to join the GOP repeal effort to gut health care for 200,000 Montanans as the main reason he is running for Attorney General. Republican AGs and candidates are avoiding explaining to voters their dangerous position to take away affordable health care and end protections for people with pre-existing conditions in the middle of a global pandemic. DAGA is planning to invest as much as $15 million in battleground races this cycle including continuing efforts to educate voters where AG candidates stand on health care as they cast their ballots.
At the state legislative level, Democratic trifectas are the last line of defense against Republican attempts to roll back health care access through the courts. Democrats will continue focusing on Republican legislators’ disastrous record on health care. Even in the midst of the pandemic, the GOP has doubled down on blocking Medicaid expansion, denying affordable coverage to millions of Americans. Instead of prioritizing public health, they’ve wasted time spreading conspiracy theories, fighting to undermine necessary public health restrictions, and fought against statewide and local mask mandates. Democratic legislators and candidates are united in the importance of protecting and expanding health care in their states.
Republicans have been unable to answer voters’ concerns around their party’s dangerous position on health care—going so far as to falsify their party’s position in a desperate attempt to stay in office. Democratic candidates across the country—and across the ballot—will continue to call out Republicans for their harmful attacks on access to affordable health care, and remind voters of Republicans’ decade-long war to eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The American people can’t afford two more years—let alone during a public health crisis—of Republican-led attacks on affordable and accessible health care.