Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., who is running for an open U.S. Senate seat in Arizona, said that America cannot go back to where it was before Obamacare, a law she voted to repeal several times.
“We cannot go back to where we were before Obamacare, where people were one diagnosis away from going bankrupt because they could not get access to healthcare,” said McSally in a debate Monday with her Democratic opponent, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema.
[Also read: McSally hits Sinema for anti-war activism and accuses her of 'treason']
McSally voted for the House Republican Obamacare replacement bill that would have let states waive key requirements that protect people with pre-existing conditions, including requirements that insurers not charge sicker people more money.
Although McSally said that the pre-Obamacare health system was undesirable, she also reasserted that Obamacare “was the wrong approach” to fix the problem of healthcare costs.
“We have to address the issue and we have got to make sure we protect people with pre-existing conditions but the Obamacare model has failed,” she said.
The exchange during the debate represents the tricky situation that McSally and other vulnerable Republicans must navigate as they face voter angst over the possible loss of pre-existing condition protections.
McSally voted in May 2017 for the American Health Care Act, which repealed and replaced Obamacare.
She said that she did vote to protect people with pre-existing conditions “to make sure insurance companies were forced to give them healthcare and couldn’t cancel it.”
But independent experts and the Congressional Budget Office said that would not have been the case if the bill had become law. The Senate eventually did not take up the bill and a more narrow repeal bill failed in the Senate in July 2017.
The House bill let states get waivers that would allow insurers to not cover certain pre-existing condition protections. These include essential health benefits that require insurers to cover certain benefits like hospitalization or maternity care.
Under the bill, insurers also wouldn’t have to meet a requirement called community rating, which prevents insurers from charging people more money because they are sick. Without community rating, a person with a pre-existing condition could still get a plan but they could be charged a severely high premium that would put that plan out of reach.
The CBO’s analysis of the House bill said that sick people would have to pay more money for care in states that got the waiver.
House Republicans added $8 billion for states to set up a high-risk pool that segregates sick people into their own insurance pool and then pay down their costs. But many experts said that the number wasn’t near enough to cover people with pre-existing conditions.
Sinema has repeatedly targeted McSally’s vote for the American Healthcare Act and for another bill back in 2015 that fully repealed all of Obamacare.
“Arizonans are worried about losing access to this critical coverage and Martha voted to take that coverage away,” she said.