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i9 Fact Checker: Democratic ad’s attacks on Joni Ernst’s stance on pre-existing conditions are mostly true

Published: Oct. 27, 2020 at 7:36 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Health care is one of the top issues for voters ahead of the 2020 Election. Democrats have attacked Republicans' support of trying to repeal legislation like the Affordable Care Act. This ad tries to attack incumbent Sen. Joni Ernst on the same issue.

Source: The ad called “Both Sides” is from Senate Majority PAC.

A key to this ad is another ad called “Sister” running from Ernst’s campaign called Joni For Iowa. In the ad, Ernst said, “no American should ever be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition.”

The ad from the Senate Majority PAC claims she is “denying the truth” and lays out its case.

Claim #1: Ernst helped write the bill that allows insurance to take away coverage for pre-existing conditions."

Analysis: The claim is referring to a bill Ernst co-sponsored with more than 45 other Republican Senators, which was called the ObamaCare Repeal Act. That does not mean she helped write the bill but she very clearly and overtly supported it.

The bill is from 2015 and would repeal the Affordable Care Act in its entirety, which includes removing guarantees of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

The Affordable Care Act made it illegal for insurance companies to refuse to cover people with a pre-existing condition. It also made it illegal for insurance companies to charge women more. The only exception to this rule are plans people buy themselves, rather than through an employer.

Ernst ran against Obamacare in 2014, even using campaign ads that said she would “set her sights on Obamacare” before shooting at a target.

Conclusion: While the ad overstates her involvement slightly in the bill (she didn’t actually help write it), she very clearly supported the effort that includes repealing protections for pre-existing conditions. That’s why this gets a B.

Claim#2: “And voted four times to make that the law.”

Analysis: The ad is referring to four different votes in the Senate that occurred from 2017 to 2019, none of them on the same law previously cited.

The first two votes in July are in reference to the American Health Care Act of 2017 (AHCA). The republican backed health care bill would repeal different parts of the Affordable Care Act, didn’t become law.

The AHCA would keep the requirement that people with pre-existing conditions must be offered health insurance. But, it would remove restrictions on how much those people can be charged.

When we previously checked this claim in other elections, we noted the Congressional Budget Office review on the AHCA noted it would effectively eliminate coverage for people with pre-existing conditions by making insurance plans for those groups too expensive.

“People who are less healthy (including those with preexisting or newly acquired medical conditions) would ultimately be unable to purchase comprehensive non-group health insurance at premiums comparable to those under current law, if they could purchase it at all,” the review states.

The votes in 2018 and 2019 are in reference to two different Democratic-backed bills, which would have changed a rule from the Trump White House that allowed insurance companies to sell short-term healthcare plans for under a year rather than a 90-day limit.

Those plans are exempted from the Affordable Care Act regulations, which means people with pre-existing conditions don’t have to receive coverage and people with those plans are still considered uninsured and pay a tax penalty.

Republicans argue these plans created another low-cost option for families. While Democrats argue these plans leave Americans open to unexpected costs in emergency rooms and undermine the marketplace for plans that do cover pre-existing conditions.

Conclusion: The votes to repeal short-term health plans was not a vote to remove protections for pre-existing conditions. However, Ernst’s votes for the AHCA would effectively eliminate coverage for pre-existing conditions. The problem is the ad overstates how many times Ernst voted for that and that’s why the claim gets a B.

Claim#3: “It’s why drug and insurance industries gave her campaigns over $600,000.”

Analysis: The $600,000 number comes from The Center for Responsive Politics, looking at donations since 2015. In that time, the Insurance Industry has donated more than $410,000 while Pharmaceuticals and Health Products gave her more than $210,000.

Insurance donations are the 6th highest industry donations to Ernst’s campaign. Around 15 other industries gave Ernst more money than the pharmaceutical and health product industry.

This also doesn’t include donations to Ernst’s PAC, which is then donated to other campaigns across the country.

Conclusion: The donations to Ernst’s campaign are accurate. However, the ad offers no specific evidence that Ernst’s support to repeal protections for pre-existing conditions motivated those donations. That’s why we knocked this claim to a B.

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