DENVER — Truth Tests normally begin with a look at the claims, but this one needs to start with the group responsible for the claims.
"Duty and Honor" is responsible for an ad going after Republican Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner and his votes regarding coverage for preexisting conditions.
What exactly is Duty and Honor?
It's an offshoot of Majority Forward, which works with Senate Majority PAC, the political action committee connected with top Senate Democrat, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer.
Viewers in Colorado might also recognize the message in the "Duty and Honor" ad as being similar to the message in a previous "Majority Forward" ad.
Both reference Coloradans "fighting cancer, diabetes or heart disease" and then reference nine votes made by Gardner. Let's look at that claim.
AD/CLAIM: "Why did Cory Gardner vote with the insurance companies nine times to eliminate protections for people with preexisting conditions?"
VERDICT: The claim asks "why" which is a question of intent. This Truth Test will not answer the question of intent. It's not clear why the ad says he voted with insurance companies. Duty and Honor did not provide proof linking insurance company lobbying, with votes made by Gardner. The nine votes doesn't tell the whole story about Gardner and preexisting conditions.
BOTTOM LINE: Yes, Gardner has a voting history to weaken the Affordable Care Act, including coverage for those with preexisting conditions. However, voters should have known that when they elected him in 2014 in the first place.
When asked for supporting information for the claims, "Duty and Honor" provided nine votes Gardner recorded between July 25, 2017 and Oct. 30, 2019.
Two of those votes were a bill and a resolution.
On Oct. 10, 2018, Gardner voted against Senate Joint Resolution 63, to disallow a rule that could allow short-term health plans to exempt people with preexisting conditions.
On Oct. 30, 2019, Gardner voted against a similar resolution.
Six of the votes were amendments, most of which were offered up the minority Senate Democrats. Most of the amendments, which Gardner opposed, tried to ban legislation that:
- "Makes America sick again"
- "Make people with disabilities and chronic conditions sick again"
- "Makes women sick"
- "Undermine the historic coverage gains the United States has made in children's health"
One of the bills was a procedural vote to proceed to a specific bill.
Gardner's position on the Affordable Care Act and votes on preexisting conditions is not new.
When he was in the House of Representatives, he cast multiple votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act or to prohibit the Treasury Department from funding it.
Voters still elected him in 2014, when he defeated then-Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, 47%-45%.
The end of the ad, as well as the Majority Forward ad, ask you to call Gardner and have him support S.466. That bill would prevent states from being able to waive parts of the Affordable Care Act, which would allow financial aid to go to insurance plans that don't cover preexisting conditions.
Gardner recently introduced preexisting conditions protection bill
On Aug. 6, just before the 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."
Here is the text of the bill:
"A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage may not impose any pre-existing condition exclusion with respect to such plan or coverage, factor health status into premiums or charges, exclude benefits relating to pre-existing conditions from coverage, or otherwise exclude benefits, set limits, or increase charges based on any pre-existing condition or health status."
It does require insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions, it just doesn't require an insurance company to take you on in the first place.
"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.
Despite multiple requests to speak with Gardner about his bill, his Senate staff and campaign spokesman have not made him available.
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