Tuesday’s special election in a conservative Pennsylvania Congressional district could be a blow to future efforts to roll back Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, let alone repealing the law and replacing it.
Democrat Conor Lamb, who is riding a tide of opposition to Donald Trump and partisan Republican politics in Washington, is in favor of fixing the ACA’s flaws and using Medicaid expansion to address the nation’s opioid epidemic. Meanwhile, his Republican opponent Rick Saccone is espousing the repeal-and-replace Obamacare mantra of Trump and Paul Ryan , the current Republican Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
If Lamb wins, it could be a major blow to GOP ideas to end the ACA or cut Medicaid spending as Ryan wants to do. And it could figure in this fall’s mid-term elections as well. “If the Republican health care agenda can’t sell in a district that is this Republican, it’s an anchor around the ankles of Republicans in the more competitive battleground districts of the midterms,” says Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson.
Polls show voters in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District see healthcare as a “high priority, but a divisive issue” as one local media report noted. While healthcare premiums have risen in Western Pennsylvania, the area is becoming more known for its medical care with University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) having a strong presence in the suburbs and rural areas that are included in the district. UPMC is a large employer and has benefited from the ACA.
Saccone, a current GOP state representative, echoes several of the same healthcare positions as Trump such as allowing insurance companies to buy across state lines, saying he will “utilize free-market principles to fix our healthcare crisis.”
Yet despite Saccone’s opposition to the ACA, which allowed states to expand Medicaid, the added money for Medicaid has support in the 18th Congressional District. Pennsylvania was one of 32 states plus the District of Columbia that agreed to expand Medicaid under the ACA, which was signed into law almost eight years ago by President Barack Obama.
The Democrat Lamb talks about how the ACA has flaws but has “provided affordable coverage to more than a million Pennsylvanians who were previously uninsured.”
“Our representatives in Congress should be working together to build on that progress, fix what isn’t working, and make the law better,” Democrat Conor Lamb says of the ACA on his web site. “Instead, Republicans in Congress spent the past year trying to take health insurance away from people with no plan to replace it. Now, costs are likely to go up for many of us, especially those with preexisting conditions. That is unacceptable, and it’s a failure of leadership.”
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