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Fact check: Cory Gardner's bill has as much to do with politics as preexisting conditions

By Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News on

Published in News & Features

Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican running in a tight race for reelection in Colorado, says he wants to protect people with medical conditions.

In a mid-September tweet released by his campaign, he promoted legislation he introduced in August that he says will do just that.

"People like my mother who battle chronic diseases are heroes," read the tweet. "I authored the bill to guarantee coverage to people with pre-existing conditions - no matter what happens to Obamacare - because some things matter more than politics."

Gardner has voted repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the first federal law to guarantee people with health problems that they could buy insurance when shopping for their own coverage - at the same cost as for healthier consumers.

Polls show broad public support for keeping the ACA's preexisting condition protections, while also indicating a consistent, if narrow, majority favoring the overall law.

The popularity of those protections has led Gardner, as well as other GOP candidates facing tough challengers, to swear their allegiance to protecting people with medical conditions, despite their records. In previous fact checks, we found Sen. Martha McSally's promise always to protect preexisting conditions to be False. President Donald Trump also has made related statements, which have ranged from False to Pants on Fire.

 

That got us thinking: Would Gardner's legislation, dubbed "The Pre-Existing Conditions Protection Act," actually guarantee these protections if the ACA didn't exist? We decided to investigate.

The bill, which was introduced in August, has no co-sponsors. It's very short, only 117 words in total.

The main section is a single very long sentence: "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."

We reached out to the Gardner campaign to ask for more information.

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