Health care is a top issue for voters. That leaves Republicans in a tricky spot for the midterms.

Drug addiction, medical debt and rising health costs have left Republicans in the position of backing provisions of the legislation they don't actually like.
October 18, 2018, 3:26pm
Health care is a top issue for voters. That leaves Republicans in a tricky spot this midterms.

Health care is shaping up to be the most important issue to voters ahead of the midterms, and Republicans are rolling out messaging promising that they totally get that — even when their legislative records and support of a lawsuit to dismantle the Affordable Care Act suggest otherwise.

In February, 20 Republican state attorneys general backed a lawsuit to overturn Obamacare — including a popular provision that protects people with pre-existing conditions from being charged more or denied coverage. That lawsuit is pending in a Texas court, awaiting a ruling with the potential to disrupt the entire health care program. And Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell told Reuters Tuesday that when it comes to repealing the health care law, “If we had the votes to completely start over, we’d do it. But that depends on what happens in a couple weeks.”

But amid a scourge of drug addiction, medical debt and rising health costs across the country, Barack Obama’s landmark health care legislation has made steady gains in popularity. And that leaves Republicans in the uncomfortable position of backing provisions of the legislation they wouldn't support in the past. The Kaiser Family Foundation found in a national poll of 1,201 adults, conducted Sept. 19 to Oct. 2, that health care tops guns, the economy and immigration as voters’ most important consideration when choosing a candidate. The poll also found that in battleground states, such as Florida and Nevada, the pre-existing conditions mandate — which ensures that people with conditions such as diabetes or cancer don’t get charged more in monthly premiums — was a key issue in deciding who to vote for.

The House bill Republicans introduced last year to replace the ACA would have chipped away at protections for those with pre-existing conditions, though: While it required that people with pre-existing conditions be offered insurance, it didn’t control how much insurers could charge people who disclosed conditions..

So messaging around health care is starting to get pretty confusing as Republicans attempt to save skin ahead of the midterms. Essentially, Republicans, who are still against Obamacare, are now proponents of covering pre-existing conditions, without question. For example, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is locked in a tight race to keep his job, supported the lawsuit to overturn the ACA. But in a video posted to Twitter Monday he also noted that “covering pre-existing conditions is personal to me. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do.”

“As long as I’m governor, I will always cover pre-existing conditions,” he said.

According to a separate Fox News poll, which surveyed 1,007 registered voters Oct. 13-16, voters who believe health care is “extremely important” to them — and they’re in the majority — also lean toward Democratic candidates. That’s why Democrats are using the rule on pre-existing conditions as a major talking point in an effort to flip Congress in their favor. Sen. Claire McCaskill has made her support of the ACA a major part of her campaign platform. Her ads have featured people with pre-existing conditions railing against Republicans’ support of the lawsuit to take down the the health care law. Her Republican opponent, Josh Hawley, is signed on to that lawsuit as Missouri’s attorney general. He said in a recent campaign ad that he supports “forcing companies to cover all pre-existing conditions. And Claire McCaskill knows it.”