Clash on Health Care Takes Center Stage in Arizona Senate Race

(Bloomberg) -- Arizona Republican Martha McSally escalated a fierce health-care debate in the state’s closely contested Senate race with a new ad proclaiming her support for protecting insurance coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions.

The Arizona congresswoman says in the ad that she’s “leading the fight” to “force insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions.”

But McSally voted for Republican-sponsored legislation in 2017 that would have granted states waivers from an Obamacare provision that forbids insurers from charging people more on the basis of health status. Health-care specialists say that would allow insurance companies to raise prices, forcing sick people out of the market as was common before the the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010.

Democratic Representative Kyrsten Sinema, who’s battling McSally for Arizona’s open Senate seat, immediately tore into opponent’s assertion.

"Sadly, Martha wants to roll back these important protections. She voted to do so in 2015. She voted to do so again last year," Sinema said at a news conference Wednesday in Phoeniz. "Today she’s out with a new ad that tries to pretend she supports protecting people with pre-existing conditions. But you can’t run from your voting record in Arizona.”

The 2017 Republican bill passed the House with only GOP support but stalled in the Senate after another Arizona Republican, the deceased Senator John McCain, unexpectedly cast a vote against it.

Health care ranks as the No. 1 issue for 2018 midterm voters in many national polls, and the tussle on Wednesday reflects the extent to which the issue has taken center-stage in the final stretch of contests in Arizona and elsewhere before the Nov. 6 election. The debate also reflects the concern among Republicans about attacks by Democrats on their efforts to repeal Obamacare, a rallying cry for the GOP for years.

The Arizona Senate contest is crucial to determining control of the chamber after the Nov. 6 election and recent polls show the race to be in a dead heat. A New York Times/Siena survey found McSally leading by 2 points, while a CBS News/YouGov poll found Sinema leading by 3 points. Arizona hasn’t elected a Democratic senator since 1988, but demographic changes have made the state more competitive for the party.

Sinema, who has portrayed herself as a moderate in a party that is trending to the left, said she doesn’t support efforts by some Democrats to pursue a "Medicare for all" system, which Republicans are attacking in campaign speeches and TV ads.

“I believe that Arizonans are looking for practical, pragmatic solutions to the health care challenges we face,” she said.

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