In a confusing strategic move, the National Republican Congressional Committee began running ads yesterday in Iowa that attack a vote that Ashley Hinson took on health care in the Iowa House. Just hours after Hinson pledged in the 1st District debate that “covering preexisting conditions is absolutely a priority for me,” the NRCC unveiled an ad saying one of Hinson’s past votes allowed health care companies “to deny coverage for preexisiting conditions.”
At issue here is a 2018 bill that Iowa’s top Republicans pushed to create a special health care plan for Iowa Farm Bureau members. It was aimed primarily at creating more affordable policies for younger, self-employed farmers who are in good health. The plans offered don’t follow the Affordable Care Act’s guidelines, allowing people with certain preexisting conditions to be denied coverage. It was not classified as health insurance in order to avoid the ACA regulations.
While the bill received criticism from Democrats, some Democratic legislators joined Republicans in voting for it, including then-State Sen. Rita Hart. That is who the NRCC is targeting with their latest ad that went up on Tuesday. Hinson also voted for the bill that Republicans are now attacking. Iowa’s 1st and 2nd Districts overlap some in media markets.
“Voted for a bill allowing them to deny coverage for preexisiting conditions,” the ad says of Hart on the bill that Hinson also supported. “Cash their checks, cut your coverage. Even for maternity care. And patients with heart conditions.”
The NRCC points to two separate $500 donations from Wellmark that Hart received, the usual amount the company’s PAC gave to most legislators, including Hart’s now-opponent Marianette Miller-Meeks. Although Miller-Meeks wasn’t in the Legislature when the Farm Bureau health insurance bill was passed, she most certainly would have supported it given that all the Senate Republicans voted for it at the time.
Wellmark donated to Hinson three times for her Iowa House campaign, and has since contributed $5,000 to Hinson’s campaign for Congress. The NRCC accused Hart of being influenced by smaller Wellmark donations, so they presumably must think the donations to Hinson are similarly suspect.
For her part, Hart distanced herself from that vote when she shared the gubernatorial ticket with Fred Hubbell, who opposed the plan.
“I don’t think it’s a great option for them, but it was the only option that was available to them,” Hart said at the time. “I wasn’t given the option to vote on something else.”
The other difference here is that Republicans are under heavy skepticism by the public for their party’s efforts to repeal the ACA with no plan to protect preexisting conditions. Hinson insisted there be a plan in Monday night’s debate, though she hasn’t explained what that should be yet.
“I don’t think we can repeal and replace unless we have a plan to cover preexisting conditions,” Hinson said. “That’s paramount to me. My aunt suffered from multiple myeloma for more than a decade before she passed away. Covering preexisitng conditions is absolutely a priority for me.”
Democrats, meanwhile, passed the ACA in the first place, providing health care coverage to tens of millions of Americans who were denied it previously. Hart has pledged to strengthen the ACA and provide a public option or Medicare buy-in. Hinson has been much more vague on her approach.
While the latest ad is part of the NRCC’s strategy of saying anything, it may well cause significant headaches for two of their top-targeted Republican candidates in the state. Hinson voted for the bill they’re attacking and Miller-Meeks certainly would have. They’re also criticizing a key plan from the Farm Bureau, which typically backs Republican candidates in these races.
by Pat Rynard
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