For nearly a decade, the Affordable Care Act has been one of the most polarizing issues in national politics. So it is not surprising that the candidates for representative from Washington’s 3rd Congressional District have sharply differing views.
“I think I voted more than 80 times to repeal the ACA, because it is ridiculously flawed,” Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, told The Columbian’s Editorial Board. “The ACA is a total disaster, but we can maintain protection for people with pre-existing conditions, we can make sure they are covered by a safety net. The way we do that is we get people who shouldn’t be covered by government-run health care off. It’s not that difficult.”
Democrat Carolyn Long said: “I think we need to immediately shore up the ACA. It was an imperfect bill as far as how we bring affordable health care to Americans, but 20 million Americans have benefitted from that bill. There’s currently bipartisan legislation, the Murray-Alexander bill in particular, that would shore up the markets, provide some stability we haven’t seen, and it has not been let out of committee by leadership, Republican leadership.”
Herrera Beutler and Long met with the editorial board following the August primary in which they advanced to the November general election. The Columbian will make a recommendation to voters as the election draws near; in the meantime, we are providing a series of editorials designed to present the candidates’ positions on crucial issues. On Aug. 24, we compared their opinions about tax cuts, spending and the federal deficit.
The Affordable Care Act — colloquially known as Obamacare — was passed in 2010 by a Democratic Congress and signed by a Democratic president. Now, Republicans are in charge, and they have worked to repeal the law. Last year, Republicans came close to replacing the legislation, but ultimately fell short. Herrera Beutler voted against that bill.
“Probably the biggest reason I voted against the Republican plan is Medicaid,” she said. “I believe in safety nets. We have to have these things working, but there’s always going to be a population that hits the safety net; some of it has to do with pre-existing conditions. The government has a responsibility to make sure those people have care, so in our state we have high-risk pools. We also have to make sure those people have coverage.”
Long blamed the Trump administration for sabotaging the Affordable Care Act.
“What we have are Trump administration efforts to undermine the ACA,” she said. “We see that in terms of the money allocated to advertise for it, we see it in terms of the Trump administration’s unwillingness to defend it in court. Failing to do that means people with pre-existing conditions are not going to have access to care. So what we see is an intentional effort by this administration to undermine that bill.”
Asked whether she would support a single-payer system, which has become a popular topic of discussion, Long said she would have to see a proposal before commenting. She would prefer a public option be added to the ACA, allowing individuals and organizations to buy into a health insurance system. “I think the public option is the best way we can get support of people,” she said. “I don’t know what Medicare-for-all is going to look like; I don’t know how we’re going to pay for it.”
Herrera Beutler supports health savings accounts and “a robust, competitive marketplace, where people can say ‘I want to get a generic plan.’ Those aren’t even allowed in our state.”