Health care a big issue for voters in midterm elections

PARKERSBURG — A candidate’s position on pre-existing conditions and protections for older Americans for health insurance coverage in the Affordable Care Act matters to voters in the midterm elections, according to several recent polls.

The survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation released Wednesday said 65 percent of voters believe a candidate’s position on pre-existing health conditions is the single most important factor or is “very important” in their decision in the November general elections.

Hart Research on Sunday in a poll for Protect Our Care said the lawsuit filed by Republican state attorneys general to invalidate key consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act “is likely to be a serious and significant self-inflicted wound for Republican candidates in this year’s election because it puts them in a position of defending what the large majority of voters believe to be indefensible.”

Pre-existing conditions and health insurance are issues in the campaign for U.S. Senate in West Virginia where Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, the Republican nominee for Senate, signed onto a lawsuit that if successful in eliminating the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act would be the effective end of the act and the end of those protections for people with pre-existing conditions in obtaining affordable health insurance. The Justice Department is no longer defending challenges against the act.

The campaign for his opponent, incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin, has started what it calls an online petition and created a website, stopmorrisey.com, over the issue of pre-existing conditions.

“A lot of people are outraged,” Grant Herring, a spokesman for the Manchin Senate campaign, said.

The online petition will allow people to tell their stories, Herring said. Many people also have called the campaign headquarters in Charleston about pre-existing conditions, he said.

“Morrisey has a lot to answer for,” Herring said.

Morrisey has opposed the Affordable Care Act, dubbed ObamaCare, including participating in multi-state lawsuits with other attorneys general against the act, but it’s misleading to say Morrisey does not support protections for pre-existing conditions, said Nathan Brand, Morrisey campaign spokesman.

“That’s just not the truth,” he said.

But the dilemma facing millions of Americans, including 737,900 West Virginians, isn’t political, said Lynette Maselli, communications director of Protect Our Care West Virginia, which is part of a larger national organization.

“Health care transcends politics, and given the Trump Administration and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s decision not to defend pre-existing conditions, puts West Virginia’s health care squarely on the November ballot,” she said.

“(737,900) West Virginians, or just over 40 percent of our state’s population, have a pre-existing condition,” Maselli said. “Of that number, 188,500 are residents age 50 and over, 90,600 are children and 358,000 women.”

The Kaiser Foundation poll also found 81 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of independent voters say the pre-existing condition issue is at least “very important” to their vote. Fifty-one percent of Republican voters say it is very important, however, it comes in below repealing the Affordable Care Act.

The poll found that health care is as important an issue for candidates to discuss as jobs and the economy, gun policies, immigration and foreign policy.

Hart Research said two-thirds of voters disapprove of the Justice Department supporting the lawsuit from the attorneys general.

“Even among those who are otherwise inclined to vote for a Republican for Congress, three in 10 would have very major doubts about a GOP candidate who supports weakening protections for people with pre-existing conditions,” Hart Research said.

West Virginia has the highest percentage of residents with pre-existing conditions, said Simon F. Haeder, an assistant professor at the John D. Rockefeller IV School of Policy and Politics Department of Political Science at West Virginia University.

“The Affordable Care Act was a gift for many West Virginians, more so than in other states,” he said.

With that many people, it’s not surprising that pre-existing conditions are a major political issue in West Virginia, Haeder said. Manchin has repeatedly said he wants to keep such protections in the Affordable Care Act while Morrisey has repeatedly sought the repeal of ObamaCare, Haeder said.

“It’s quite a stark choice” between the two candidates, he said.

Another event that just arose this week was the announcement by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy that he will retire at the end of July, Haeder said. The nominee could become another significant factor in the election, he said.

“We don’t know just yet how the Republicans are going to move on that,” Haeder said.

Political pundits around the nation have said the new Supreme Court justice could tip the scales on abortion, Affirmative Action, gender and marriage, the death penalty and other social issues.

The Morrisey campaign Friday said Manchin would not support a pro-life nominee.

“If Sen. Joe Manchin is unwilling to support justices who will defend the sanctity of life, West Virginia voters cannot trust Manchin to stand up for life,” Brand said in a statement from the campaign. “Sen. Manchin’s concern about a pro-life nominee is just the latest reminder that Manchin sides with abortion-provider Planned Parenthood and the radical pro-abortion left.”

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