GOP Senate nominee says some preexisting conditions don't count

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New Hampshire Republican Corky Messner does not believe 500,000 people in his state need their health insurance protected.

Corky Messner, the Republican nominee challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, suggested during a debate on Thursday that preexisting health conditions are not really a thing.

Messner disputed ads run by Shaheen's campaign that note more than 500,000 people could face a loss of insurance coverage if discrimination against those with preexisting conditions were again made legal.

"I do want to make something very, very clear," Messner said at the North Country debate. "There may be 500,000 people that have a health condition for which they're receiving medical attention, but that doesn't mean it's a preexisting condition."

Messner has previously called preexisting conditions a "fear tactic" used by Democrats to scare people.

But according to a 2019 analysis by the Center for American Progress, 571,300 nonelderly New Hampshire residents have some sort of preexisting condition that could subject them to discrimination if insurers were allowed to take such conditions into account when setting premiums and offering coverage. The number was reached by applying Department of Health and Human Services data on preexisting condition rates to nonelderly population estimates from the Census Bureau's 2017 American Community Survey.

But while Messner may not believe preexisting health conditions are preexisting conditions, insurance companies prior to the enactment in 2010 of the Affordable Care Act — commonly known as Obamacare — denied coverage or charged higher rates based on a very broad definition of the term "preexisting."

In practice, this meant that people with conditions such as diabetes and asthma faced discrimination, as did some women who were pregnant and some victims of domestic abuse.

Messner has defended a lawsuit backed by Donald Trump that seeks to eliminate Obamacare in its entirety. He has also opposed the law's provisions that let people buy private insurance policies through exchanges.

Without Obamacare, more than 50,000 New Hampshire citizens covered by Medicaid expansion could also lose their insurance.

"Colorado Corky is shrugging off the fears—and realities—of more than half a million Granite Staters with pre-existing conditions, whose health protections are jeopardized by his plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act," said Noelle Rosellini, a spokesperson for the New Hampshire Democratic Party. "To say that people with cancer, asthma, diabetes and more don’t have a pre-existing condition and to then actively work to let insurers deny those people care is heartless and cold—but that’s who Colorado Corky is."

According to RealClear Politics' polling average, Messner currently trails Shaheen by more than 15 points.

The Messner campaign did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.