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ICYMI: Health Care “Front And Center” In NC Senate Race As Senator Tillis Struggles To Defend His Harmful Record During COVID-19 Pandemic

With COVID-19 cases on the rise and North Carolinians losing access to health care coverage, WFAE reports that health care is “front and center” in the North Carolina Senate race as voters contrast Senator Thom Tillis’ record of voting against North Carolinians’ health care interests and Cal’s record of fighting for more affordable, accessible health care.  

As this health politics experts points out, voters will remember how Republicans like Tillis have spent years trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act with no adequate replacement, and are currently in court attempting to throw out the entire law: “Here we are in the middle of a pandemic, millions have lost their jobs, and at least several million have lost their health insurance.’”

As Speaker of the North Carolina State House, Tillis also led the charge to block Medicaid expansion, leaving hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians in the coverage gap today. In 2014, he ran ads touting that he “stopped Obamacare’s Medicaid cold,” and has recently bragged about “making it illegal.” But amid this public health crisis, Tillis struggles to defend his decision and continues to fail to show leadership on the issue, saying that Medicaid expansion should be left up to the state while taking no action to push state lawmakers to do so.  

In the Senate, Cal will work to improve access and bring down the cost of health care, fighting to strengthen and extend coverage under the Affordable Care Act and calling on Congress to incentivize states like North Carolina to expand Medicaid. 

WGHP spoke to North Carolinians about the contrast in the race: “As an entrepreneur and as someone who’s responsible for finding my own health care, I’ve experienced firsthand how different those premiums can be when you’re buying through the exchange versus just independently.” 

A recent poll found that the majority of North Carolinians favor Medicaid expansion, and that “majorities of respondents of every political stripe supported expansion, with 60 percent of those identifying as ‘very conservative’ along with 89 percent of those who identified as ‘liberal.’”

In an interview with WLOS last month, Tillis wavered between trying to explain why he opposed critical health care coverage for North Carolinians and posturing himself as somehow now open to the idea while taking no action to push the legislature to do so. “Now in politics, they call that a flip flop,” said Tillis in the interview. Still, Tillis “won’t comment on whether expansion should now go forward.” 

Cal has “positioned himself as a defender of the [ACA] and proponent of Medicaid expansion.”In the Senate, he will work to protect and improve the Affordable Care Act by adding a public option and advocating for expanded Medicaid in North Carolina. 

Read more about the key contrasts between Cal and Tillis on the critical issue of health care below:

WFAE: In Presidential Race, Health Care Takes Backseat To Pandemic But Not In NC Senate Race

By Dana Miller Ervin – September 16, 2020 

  • But the fact is, Americans remain very worried about their health care… especially its cost. A recent Gallup poll found half of all U.S. adults fear a major medical event will push them into bankruptcy. And according to an NBC News-Commonwealth Fund poll, one in three Americans worry they can’t pay their medical bills. That includes some people who have insurance.
  • “There are actually people with employer-based coverage which has become so skimpy that they are making choices about using their health care or buying groceries.”
  • It could be a factor in the North Carolina Senate race where Democrat Cal Cunningham is putting health care front and center in his bid to unseat Republican Thom Tillis. Cunningham is running a series of ads highlighting Tillis’ vote to repeal the ACA and for blocking Medicaid expansion for the state’s poorest residents. Like Biden, Cunningham supports strengthening the Affordable Care Act and expanding Medicaid. His campaign says that’s especially important now because an estimated 238,000 North Carolinians have lost their coverage because of the recession, according to a June report by the left-leaning organization Families USA.
  • Cunningham’s campaign says its health care message will help with swing voters. It points out that Medicaid expansion has proved popular with voters in states that are more conservative than North Carolina. Missourians and Oklahomans, for example, recently voted for Medicaid expansion, overcoming the resistance of their elected representatives.
  • The Tillis campaign so far hasn’t emphasized his health care positions. Back in 2014, he unseated Democratic Senator Kay Hagan in a campaign based in part on his opposition to the ACA.
  • On his opposition to Medicaid expansion –  Tillis points out that North Carolina’s program had been mismanaged and had to be fixed first. But he won’t comment on whether expansion should now go forward, saying that decision should be left up to the state.
  • The Senate race here is one of a handful which will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate, so there’s plenty of outside money pouring into the state. Majority Forward, which last year spent $36 million on ads attacking Republican Senate candidates, is airing footage of Tillis taking credit for stopping Medicaid expansion in the state.
  • Voters may begin to hear more about the candidates’ health care plans soon. The first Tillis-Cunningham debate aired Monday night and Trump will debate Biden at the end of the month. But Oberlander says that, regardless of whether voters focus on health care, this election will have dramatic consequences for health care in the coming years, even if the Supreme Court upholds some or all of the Affordable Care Act.