Ohio’s special election in District 12 last week was never supposed to be even close.
Republicans have held the Ohio-12 House seat for over thirty years. Trump won the district by eleven points in 2016. And yet, the people who actually live in the district–yes, this even includes those scoundrels in Franklin County–turned those numbers on their head and sent a message to Congress: We are watching the Republican assault on the middle class, working families, those suffering through poverty, children, teachers, veterans—and we will march to the polls to make our voices heard.
Center stage in this parade to the polls: Healthcare.
There are 4.8 million Ohioans—over 40% of the state’s population—who are living with a pre-existing condition like cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. I know, because I am one of them. I was a perfectly healthy–as far as I knew–29-year old working out in the gym one moment. The next I collapsed, a friend helped rush me to the hospital, and I found out I had Graves’ Disease. I also found out I would be treated with something called radioactive iodine, and have a thyroid condition for the rest of my life. Also known as a pre-existing condition.
I can tell you from not only my experience, but those of my family, friends and colleagues, we are tired of Republicans’ nonstop campaign to strip away our access to care.
In the last year, the GOP has raised uninsurance rates, jacked up costs, and weakened protections for people with pre-existing conditions. And last week, in a stunningly close race, voters in Ohio rejected the GOP’s destructive repeal-and-sabotage agenda.
Republicans tried—and failed—to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) last summer, and gut protections for the 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions that are in current law. And when their repeal attempts failed, Republicans in Congress still took away 13 million Americans’ health insurance, while giving huge tax cuts to insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies.
Even as the American people rose up to defeat efforts to rip their health care away in Congress, the Trump administration has enacted regulation after regulation to sabotage our care.
They are boosting junk insurance plans that won’t provide real health care when you get sick. They went to to court to strike down the ACA protections for women, for people over 50 and, yes, for people living with pre-existing conditions. Now, the Trump Administration is trying to install a rubber stamp on its anti-health care agenda in Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, a judicial extremist who has criticized previous decisions upholding the Affordable Care Act.
Here’s the thing, though: While Republicans press on with this repeal-and-sabotage agenda, the American people are paying attention. As a result, “health care voters” have been activated and energized, turning out at polls all across the country. We saw them turn out to support Doug Jones, who campaigned on expanding and protecting Medicaid, in Alabama. We saw them push Conor Lamb, who campaigned against repealing the ACA, over the finish line in Pennsylvania. We saw them give Ralph Northam a huge win in the Virginia governor’s race, helping him help them by expanding Medicaid. Now, they’ve propelled Danny O’Connor into the national spotlight.
Danny O’Connor ran on a message that every American, no matter their background or health history, deserves access to health care. Having watched his own mother battle cancer, he assured those of us living with pre-existing conditions and the hundreds of thousands of Ohioans with coverage through Medicaid expansion he’ll protect their care in Washington.
His opponent, on the other hand, voted repeatedly against Medicaid expansion in the state senate, making clear his intention to join his gubernatorial candidate, Mike DeWine, in ripping healthcare-coverage away from 700,000 Ohioans. As a candidate, Troy Balderson vowed to repeal the health care law — and he even threatened a lawsuit against a conservative group to make sure it was known to voters that he “wants to repeal” the law.
The lesson from Ohio’s special election couldn’t be more clear: the American people want our leaders to protect, and in fact enhance, rather than reduce, our healthcare. But, defying all logic, Republicans have already pledged to try to repeal the Affordable Care Act yet again when they return to Washington after the election.
The Republican Party should know the American people are tired of their attacks on our health care—and if the GOP refuses to listen to our voices, well then get ready for a pretty rough November.
CEO, Ohioans for Economic Opportunity (OEO)