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Truth Test: Claim from Gardner's mom about pre-existing conditions leaves out one detail

Sen. Cory Gardner's new ad features his mom, a cancer survivor, who says her son's bill protects preexisting conditions even without Obamacare. That needs context.

DENVER — If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all…is a mantra that does not apply when doing a Truth Test, even when the political ad includes claims by the mom of the Republican Senator.

A mom who is also a cancer survivor.

The ad, entitled "Forever," is paid for by Cory Gardner for Senate.

AD/CLAIM: Gardner's mom: "Cory wrote the bill to guarantee coverage to people with preexisting conditions, forever."

Gardner: "No matter what happens to Obamacare."

VERDICT: (Insert bashful font). This author's mom taught him to say something nice, so let's start with a positive. Yes, on Aug. 6, just before the U.S. Senate went on break, Gardner introduced bill S. 4506. The bill text is eight lines long, when you open it in PDF form. It's entitled: "To ensure coverage of pre-existing conditions under private health insurance, and for other purposes."

However, what Gardner's mom doesn't say in the ad is that Gardner's bill isn't necessary at this point because Obamacare -- the Affordable Care Act -- is still the law. The Affordable Care Act prevents insurance companies from denying you coverage because of preexisting conditions.

It's not accurate to say "forever." The Affordable Care Act currently covers people with preexisting conditions and if it's repealed, a new bill requiring it would need to be signed into law. There's no guarantee that would happen. Even if Gardner's bill was needed and signed into law, it could be repealed later. Saying forever is not true.

AD/CLAIM: "No matter what happens to Obamacare."

VERDICT: This is also not true.

If Obamacare -- the Affordable Care Act -- were to be repealed, insurance companies wouldn't necessarily be required to take you on in the first place.

Gardner's bill addresses insurance companies having to cover people with preexisting conditions, but it does not include a guarantee provision, which is currently in the Affordable Care Act, that does not allow an insurance company to deny coverage.

The Affordable Care Act is 906 pages long, and includes a section on page 38 entitled, "Guaranteed Availability of Coverage."

Subject to subsections (b) through (e), each health insurance issuer that offers health insurance coverage in the individual or group market in a State must accept every employer and individual in the State that applies for such coverage.

If the Affordable Care Act were to be repealed that guarantee goes away with it.

During a previous Truth Test last month, we looked at Gardner's preexisting conditions bill.

"In order to truly protect people who are sick with preexisting conditions, you have to be willing to strictly regulate insurance companies and provide the kind of funding that would keep the insurance market stable. And this bill from Sen. Gardner falls well short of providing comprehensive protections for people with preexisting conditions," said Larry Levitt, vice president of Kaiser Family Foundation.

KFF is a non-profit that focuses on health issues. It is not connected to Kaiser Permanente.

"This bill is clearly somewhat incomplete in that it's so short, but what the bill is really missing certain words that requires insurance companies to take anyone," Levitt said.

Earlier this month, a Colorado Sun article also explored what Gardner's bill would and wouldn't do.

"Gardner's bill contains no such explicit provision," the article stated, referring to guaranteed coverage, where a health insurer couldn't deny selling someone coverage. The article quoted Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan and a national expert on health law. He told the Sun that insurers, "could altogether refuse to sell coverage to that person. I don’t care what Senator Gardner’s office thinks the bill says. That’s in fact what it says.”

In an email, Gardner's campaign spokeswoman defended the bill.

"One thing is 100% true: Cory Gardner authored the bill and he says it guarantees coverage, which means insurers would be required to cover and take on individuals with pre-existing conditions," wrote spokeswoman Meghan Graf.

Graf also provided a link to American Action Forum, a conservative-leaning non-profit, to defend what Gardner believes his bill does.

As we found in two previous Truth Tests (here and here), Gardner has a history of voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act or limit its funding. Requiring coverage for preexisting conditions currently exists under the Affordable Care Act. As we stated in both of those Truth Tests, Gardner had a voting history like that when he was a Congressman, prior to voters electing him as Senator in 2014.

The reason this is an important topic right now is because on Nov. 10, one week after the election, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments on a challenge to the Affordable Care Act. The court's decision in 2021 will determine if the Affordable Care Act remains or not.

Bottom Line: Gardner's bill isn't needed right now because the Affordable Care Act covers people with preexisting conditions. Based on the minimal wording of Gardner's bill, it does not require insurance companies to sell coverage to someone with preexisting conditions, it just requires coverage if the insurance company takes that person on in the first place. And no bill is forever. Otherwise, the Affordable Care Act would be permanent, and this bill absolutely wouldn't be necessary.

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