The senator’s bill that supposedly protects people with pre-existing conditions has a major loophole, and he wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act.
The future of the US Senate depends on whether or not Democrats can win a pair of January runoff elections in Georgia. And in one of those races, the Republican incumbent has decided against letting the voters hear from him directly in a public forum.
On Sunday, the Atlanta Press Club announced Sen. David Perdue had declined the opportunity to participate in another debate against his opponent, Jon Ossoff. The debate, scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 5, will still go on, but Perdue “will be represented by an empty podium,” the organization said in a statement.
It’s the second time Perdue has bailed on debating his opponent. Two days before the Nov. 3 election, the senator canceled a previously scheduled debate to appear with President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Rome.
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Perdue—like fellow Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler—failed to secure 50% of the votes in their bids for re-election earlier this month, and must face off against their opponents in a Jan. 5 run-off. If Perdue and/or Loeffler win, they’ll stop Democrats from controlling the Senate. With Joe Biden as president and a Democratic-controlled House, that means the political gridlock is all but sure to continue.
The last time Perdue and Ossoff debated, the Democratic candidate went after Perdue’s record on health care. After pointing out that the Republican had once downplayed the severity of COVID-19 by comparing it to the flu, Ossoff highlighted how Perdue has put Georgians, particularly those with pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, at risk.
“The legislation that you tout, the Protect Act, includes loopholes that specifically allow insurance companies to deny policies to Georgias with preexisting conditions,” Ossoff said in October. “Can you look down the camera and tell the people of this state why you voted four times to allow insurance companies to deny us health coverage because we may suffer from diabetes or heart disease or asthma or have cancer in remission. Why, Senator?”
More than 1.8 million Georgians live with a pre-existing condition. The Protect Act is a bill that Perdue co-sponsored with Republican North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis that aims to ensure Americans are able to obtain affordable health coverage without discrimination because of a medical condition they had before applying for coverage. But, according to the text of the bill, a health insurer can deny coverage if “it will not have the capacity to deliver services adequately.”
Allison Hoffman, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, told Politifact that’s a big loophole. “Insurers could exclude someone’s preexisting conditions from coverage, even if they offered her a policy,” Hoffman said in 2018 when the bill was first introduced. “That fact alone sinks any claims that this law offers pre-existing condition protection.”
Perdue, a former Fortune 500 CEO and Trump loyalist, has also voted repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The law ensures that the nearly 133 million Americans who live with pre-existing conditions can obtain quality coverage. He has called the landmark healthcare reform bill “a disaster” that “should be entirely repealed,” and opposed Medicaid expansion, which would give 726,000 people in the state access to health coverage.
A recent poll found that a majority of Georgians want to see the ACA remain intact. Yet Perdue has also thrown his support behind a lawsuit led by 18 Republican attorneys general—including Georgia’s own Attorney General Chris Carr—and supported by Trump aiming to overturn the law. During oral arguments last week, the Supreme Court signalled it is likely to uphold the ACA, though a decision in the case is not expected for months.
“This is why these Senate runoffs are so vital,” Ossoff said last week. “Because if the Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act, then it will be up to Congress to decide how to legislate such that preexisting conditions remain covered.
“So if we do not win the Senate races, and if the Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act, then Georgia families and Georgians with asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer will be at risk of having their health coverage denied by insurance companies.”
Kellye Call, an Athens resident dealing with multiple autoimmune diseases, is one of those people. “If the ACA were struck down, I would, quite frankly, become disabled,” she told COURIER recently. “Because I have my specialists covered, because I have my medications covered, because I have my blood tests covered, I’m in remission on all of my diseases. Because of this, I’m able to be in grad school right now and obtain two masters degrees, and I will be able to work after that and do the work that I like to do.”
“If I don’t have my doctor’s visits and my medications and I [can’t] manage my disease,” she continued, “I don’t have a quality of life. I won’t be able to get out of bed in the morning. I don’t want that to happen, and I especially don’t want that to happen at 30 years old.”