2018 midterms

Kemp Lies About Abrams Lying About Kemp’s Lies on Health Care

One way to “debate” your opponent, as Brian Kemp shows, is just to make up stuff about her. Photo: John Bazemore/Getty Images

One of the big problems Republicans are facing in the midterms is the vast paper trail most of them have created in supporting various efforts to gut the Affordable Care Act, including the really popular provisions like required coverage of people with preexisting health conditions. Most behind the eight ball are the Republican attorneys general who have pursued a lawsuit to kill the ACA, and the Republican members of Congress who have voted repeatedly to kill it. The Trump administration, of course, supported both those debilitating measures, and has issued its own regulations undermining the ACA’s structure, and thus its effect on those with preexisting conditions.

So what does a Republican plan look like? Within the party, individual responses to the health-care problem vary in some details, but the basic approach is to just lie about it.

But Georgia GOP gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp has taken this approach to new lows by vaguely gesturing in the direction of the preexisting conditions problem without offering an actual solution and then waxing indignant about the temerity of his opponent (Democrat Stacey Abrams) in questioning his determination to deal with it.

It’s interesting that for the bulk of the campaign, Kemp’s entire health-care policy arsenal consisted of next to nothing other than opposing Abrams’s plan to finally accept the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. Earlier this month he finally released a health-care “plan” that included a pledge to “cover Georgians with pre-existing conditions through reinsurance program.” This is presumably a reference to mechanisms adopted in a number of states under the Affordable Care Act to spread the costs associated with especially high-cost patients. It can work reasonably well in conjunction with ACA’s ban on discrimination against people with preexisting conditions to keep premiums lower than they would have been, but is no substitute for the ban itself. So in the kind of no-Obamacare world in which Kemp and other Republicans would prefer to live, it might make premiums for some unhealthy people less prohibitive, but it doesn’t guarantee them insurance at all. And so it’s hardly a cure-all, or even a solution by any reasonable definition of the term.

Kemp, then, has no grounds for pretending that he’s all about protecting people with preexisting health conditions, or for getting huffy about Abrams’s challenge to him for opposing Obamacare and the Medicaid expansion. You cannot call Obamacare an “absolute disaster,” as Kemp has, and then pretend you somehow support its central feature via some voluntary, private-sector cross-subsidy system that avoids forcing insurers to cover people they really don’t want to cover.

But then again, Brian Kemp has been remarkably free and easy with the facts about health-care policy in the course of his campaign. He has, for example, repeatedly claimed that Abrams favors a “radical government takeover of health care” that will cost every Georgian $13,000 per year in higher taxes. That is apparently based on identifying Abrams with a single-payer health-care proposal, which Abrams has not endorsed, and then extrapolating costs via some unarticulated formula — without, of course, even acknowledging that a single-payer system would abolish insurance premiums, copays, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket expenses. Assuming Brian Kemp is not a stupid man, he is lying about the impact of single-payer and lying about it being part of Abrams’s “radical” agenda. That’s in keeping with the standards of veracity set by his role model and supporter Donald Trump.

Kemp Lies About Abrams Lying About Kemp Lies on Health Care