Lots of Republicans have made egregiously dishonest statements about health care in the last few weeks. But few have done so with the aplomb of Martha McSally, Republican candidate for Senate in Arizona.
A new video from American Bridge, a liberal political action committee, captured McSally speaking with attendees ― including one who asked about McSally’s 2017 vote to take away protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
“I did not,” McSally says. “That’s a lie. I voted to protect them.”
McSally, of course, is the one who isn’t telling the truth.
McSally is currently a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. And in 2017, she voted yes on the American Health Care Act, the GOP bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
The waivers would also have let insurers offer plans without maternity care, mental health, prescription coverage and seven other benefits that the ACA deems essential ― making coverage unattractive or flat-out unusable for people with serious medical problems.
The bill did offer states extra money to help take care of people who couldn’t get insurance on their own, plus it had language stating that insurers couldn’t discriminate against people with pre-existing medical conditions. But as countless independent experts pointed out, the language had no meaningful policy effect and the money wouldn’t have been enough to take care of all the people who needed it.
The rest of the audio isn’t that clear, but McSally seems to say something about how many people in Arizona still don’t have affordable insurance, even with the ACA in place. And that is absolutely true.
McSally could have gone further to say that some people are paying more for their coverage now because their premiums went up and they don’t qualify for the ACA’s tax credits. McSally could even have mentioned that Arizona’s private insurance markets have been among the most unstable in the country and that at one point it looked like parts of the state might have no carriers at all.
But the GOP repeal bill that McSally supported would have left even more people struggling to get insurance. That is because, in addition to undermining protections for people with pre-existing conditions, the proposal would have reallocated those tax credits for private insurance and dramatically cut funding for Medicaid.
All told, 23 million fewer people would have coverage if that bill had become law, according to an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office.
There are reasons a conservative like McSally might still think the bill made sense. Government spending ― and the deficit ― would have been lower. The government wouldn’t have been setting so many rules about how health insurance should work.
But polls show that protections for pre-existing conditions, like many elements of the ACA, are popular ― and that while voters don’t love “Obamacare,” they don’t want to get rid of it either. They’d rather make it better.
That sentiment is undoubtedly a big reason why GOP candidates like McSally are in trouble, even though she has been relatively popular and is running in a traditionally Republican state. Her opponent, Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, has attacked McSally repeatedly over that 2017 vote ― and, as McSally recently admitted in a radio interview, “I’m getting my ass kicked” over it.
And so rather that defend her vote, McSally is trying to mislead voters about what that vote meant. It’s the same thing happening all over the country, in contests just like this, and it probably won’t stop until Election Day.