State Rep. Clarke Tucker, flanked by several people with pre-existing medical conditions, attacked U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., on Wednesday for his vote last year on a measure that would have made substantial changes to the U.S. health care system.
Tucker, the Democrat vying to unseat Hill in November's election for Arkansas' 2nd Congressional District, said the American Health Care Act, which died in the U.S. Senate after passing in the House, would've been devastating for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions because it would remove current protections for those patients.
Hill has defended the bill, saying it contained a key provision that would've protected people with pre-existing conditions.
Tucker said Hill must not understand the hurdles faced by such patients.
"I honestly believe that he just does not understand what it's like to have cancer growing inside your body and have to wonder whether the people who you elected to represent you in Congress week-to-week, day-to-day, month-to-month are going to remove your ability to have affordable health care," said Tucker, who last year was treated for bladder cancer. "The fact is we need someone in Congress who does understand that."
Hill shot back, criticizing Tucker's voting record in the state Legislature. The American Health Care Act, Hill said, would've addressed the "failing," "government-centered" health care system that has hiked insurance premiums and deductibles.
"The same candidate that has voted present or not at all on numerous bills across various controversial issues is attacking me for voting to go against the status quo and fix our failed healthcare system," Hill said in a statement. "My vote for the healthcare bill was one aimed solely at fixing the flaws of our current failing healthcare system, which the Democratic Party, under Nancy Pelosi's leadership, created."
Pelosi is a U.S. representative from California and the House minority leader. She has been a central figure in Republican attacks on Tucker, who has said he wouldn't support a Pelosi bid for House leadership if elected.
Hill and Tucker will face off in the Nov. 6 midterm election. Libertarian Joe Swafford is also running for the seat.
Although the American Health Care Act died in the Senate, it has been a fixture in Democratic ads attacking Republicans across the country. The attacks have focused primarily on changes to protections for patients with pre-existing conditions, but they've also decried a change that would've increased the cap on what insurers could charge older adults.
Republicans have said that age-adjusted tax credits would offset those increased premiums.
Hill, in a video posted to his congressional office website on Friday, said he has always supported protecting access to affordable health care coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. He said he works to enact "common-sense, patient-centered reforms" that reduce premiums and shift control back to states.
"Our bill would have removed the one-size-fits-all approach of Obamacare and created a system that allows for states to provide customization designed for their unique populations," Hill said in Wednesday's statement.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation said that under the Affordable Care Act premiums have been rising, and that some parts of U.S. have seen limited participation from insurance companies.
Under the American Health Care Act, the two agencies predicted that insurance markets would remain stable in some regions, but it cautioned that some states could price-out people with pre-existing conditions if those states waive certain provisions in the federal law. The agencies also noted that predictions were uncertain because a variety of market factors made it difficult to accurately predict the law's outcome.
Tucker on Wednesday said that the Affordable Care Act "isn't perfect." He said he supports a plan that would allow people to opt-in to Medicare while allowing others to keep private insurance plans.
"It doesn't compel every American to have Medicare if that's not what they want. It gives people choices, which I think they ought to have," Tucker said.
Hill critiqued that proposal as a "big government" plan that would hurt older Americans because it would bankrupt Social Security and Medicare.
Metro on 09/14/2018