Democrats persist with healthcare ads as other issues loom

Healthcare is still a top policy issue in recent campaign advertising in key states, even as other issues loom large on voters’ minds.

The Biden campaign, Democrats’ Senate campaign arm, and a drug pricing-focused political action committee have in recent days come out with new ads attacking Republicans on supporting legislation that would have eliminated protections for people with preexisting conditions and for opposing bipartisan drug-pricing legislation. The latest push comes as new polling finds healthcare is the fifth-most important issue for registered voters.

Polling conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation from Aug. 28 to Sept. 3 found surveyed registered voters ranked healthcare as the fifth-most important issue for the presidential election behind the economy, the coronavirus outbreak, criminal justice and policing and race relations.

Healthcare is much more important for Democratic voters than Republicans, as 14% of Democrats chose it as their top issue compared with 4% of Republicans.

However, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Stewart Boss said the poll may understate the importance of healthcare issues to voters by classifying the coronavirus pandemic response and healthcare separate issues.

The Biden campaign on Wednesday announced a $65 million broadcast and digital ad buy, including two ads focused on protections for preexisting conditions that will run in the battleground states of Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida and Nevada.

Democrats’ Senate campaign arm recently launched ads attacking vulnerable GOP Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa, Martha McSally of Arizona, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina on their healthcare records.

The DSCC blasted Tillis for receiving more contributions from pharmaceutical companies than any other senator. Tillis is also facing attacks on his drug-pricing record from Patients for Affordable Drugs Action, a political action committee focused on drug-pricing issues, announced a seven-figure ad campaign against Tillis for not throwing support behind a bipartisan drug-pricing package that has since fizzled out.

Sitting GOP senators in tough re-election races have run their own advertisements claiming to support protections for patients with preexisting conditions, including Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado, McSally, David Perdue of Georgia and Steve Daines of Montana, despite votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act that created the protections in the first place.

Shortly after the election, the Supreme Court will hear a case that could invalidate the ACA in its entirety.

President Donald Trump has recently promised an executive order on preexisting condition protections. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on Wednesday that some sort of healthcare plan with an executive order component is supposed to be released before the election, but declined to elaborate further on a timeline.

Georgetown University health law professor and Affordable Care Act expert Katie Keith in a recent Health Affairs article pointed out that not all policies to protect preexisting conditions are equally effective, and said complete policies include protections based on issuance of coverage, rating and benefit design.

“Given broad public support, politicians of all stripes and persuasions now pledge to protect those with health issues. But protecting people with preexisting conditions is easier said than done,” Keith wrote.


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