Health Care a Top Issue for Voters in Your Election Blueprint
In the midst of a pandemic and a possible Supreme Court decision, the topic of health care is hitting home with voters this election. It was the top issue on the minds of listeners who responded to our Election Blueprint project.
Seven months ago, America became a war zone, and grocery stores like Tops were among the battlefields. 24 year old Drew Tessier worked at Tops on the front lines, but his fight was different; he knew he could easily end up a casualty.
“I have type two diabetes,” Tessier said. “And I have an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s Thyroid.”
Tessier, who lives on his own, receives insurance through his father’s job, but still pays an estimated $3600 a year in out of pocket costs. On a minimum wage job, this is a massive blow.
“I’ve double checked to make sure that I'm not crazy, but they'll say, you know, oh, yeah, we ran this through insurance and this is what you have to pay,” Tessier said.
Were he not covered, Tessier would be forced to go on Medicaid, and he would not be alone. According to the Economic Policy Institute, as many as 12 million people have lost their health care during the pandemic, and over 500,000 New York state residents have enrolled in Medicaid. Kerry Jones Waring is the communications officer at the health foundation of western and central New York, and says the pandemic is not the cause of the problem, but the accelerator.
“It illustrates how vulnerable people are and how their lives could change in the blink of an eye because there's something that was completely out of their hands,” Waring said.
The future of American health care is on the table this election, in both the White House and Congress. President Trump has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and supports a lawsuit that will come before the Supreme Court in November to render the law unconstitutional. The ACA has insured nearly 24 million people since its enactment.
The President has not released a plan to replace the ACA, despite vowing to do so from the start of his presidency, when he promised a “great health care plan” in a couple weeks time. This year, the president again promised a health care plan that has not been delivered.
The lack of a suitable replacement was why Congressman John Katko voted against repealing the ACA in 2017. He opposes the ACA, but supports many of its popular provisions such as protections for those with preexisting conditions and allowing children to be on their parents plan until the age of 26.
Katko’s democratic opponent Dana Balter supported Medicare for All two years ago when she attempted to unseat Katko, as well as this year during the Democratic primary. But her recent campaign ads have struck a different tone.
“I'll start by working with Joe Biden to make sure you have a choice between public and private insurance,” Balter said in the campaign ad.
Balter has aligned herself with Joe Biden, who opposes Medicare for All, and is pushing a public health care option for those who can’t afford private insurance. It's a far less expensive and more politically feasible plan, but critics say it would not ensure universal coverage.
One thing the pandemic has exposed in the health care system is its inequality. Lower income workers and people of color are far more likely to be without insurance. And as Jones Waring says, the people left out to dry are often the ones on the front lines.
“Health care workers, home care aides, [these are] jobs that put you at [the] greatest risk for contracting COVID-19 because you have that face to face interaction with the people you serve,” Waring said.
This includes Drew Tessier, who is less than two years away from aging out of his father’s insurance and being forced to go on his own. Preexisting conditions and affordable care are potentially at stake this year. For Drew, it’s a matter of life and death.
“If I didn't have insurance if I couldn't get insurance because I have a pre-existing condition. I don't know how long I would be able to survive,” Tessier said.
A Guide to Where CNY Congressional Candidates Stand on Healthcare
24th Congressional District Candidates
- Most recently, John Katko authored and introduced a bill to expand mental health services for CNY students. This bill honors his long standing commitment to pediatric mental healthcare, since his first term in Congress when he formed a bipartisan task force centered around pediatric mental healthcare.
- In 2019, Katko said he believes in fighting to include those with pre-existing conditions in healthcare coverage.
- Katko is cautiously supporting the Affordable Care Act until a strong alternative plan is presented. He opposed Republican-backed bills that would reduce funding and coverage of the ACA, from 2015 up to 2019.
- Dana Balter has leveraged her own struggle with serious injury in her fight for affordable healthcare for all, emphasizing inclusion for those with pre-existing conditions.
- She wants to keep the ACA for now, and eventually transition to a new plan similar to Senator Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan. This plan includes coverage from birth, while giving citizens the opportunity to buy additional insurance if they so choose. She would pay for this by raising corporate taxes to 35%, what they were before 2017.
- Balter also stated she wants to negotiate down prescription drug prices and increase access to reproductive health care.
22nd Congressional District Candidates
- Anthony Brindisi also supports including those with preexisting conditions in affordable healthcare. He wants to preserve Medicare and Social Security.
- Brindisi supports the ACA and has voted against its repeal, while acknowledging that parts of it should be amended, including its high premium costs.
- He voted to pass the Lower Drug Costs Now Act to negotiate prescription drug prices lower while also lowering out-of-pocket costs for seniors.
- Brindisi sponsored bills supporting suicide prevention, mental health in veterans, and Social Security.
- Claudia Tenney opposes the ACA and advocates for free-market insurance and patients choosing their individual medical insurance plans. She believes patients should be able to keep their doctor and that the ACA separates patients and doctors.
Tenney supports protecting those with preexisting conditions and cosponsored legislation that passed the House (as an amendment) to do just that. It bans insurance companies from discriminating against any patient with a preexisting condition.
- If elected, Tenney said she will protect Medicare and Social Security. She has stated that the ACA funnels funds away from Medicare. Tenney opposes any benefit changes in Social Security or Medicare for those around retirement age.
- She supported the 2017 American Health Care Act to replace the ACA, the same bill that John Katko opposed.