The Healthcare Air Wars

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 2, 2018 — With the economy performing well, most recent polling finds jobs and taxes often dropping to third place as an answer to the most important issue question. Depending upon the geographic region, immigration ranks as the second most mentioned topic, but almost all now cite healthcare as number one.

(NY-24, Democrat Dana Balter’s healthcare ad)

Therefore, it is not surprising to see campaigns on both sides driving very different healthcare messages.

Democrats are consistently hitting Republicans over their vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, as the Dems call it, or Obamacare, as is the GOP reference. The Democrat attacks claim that, because of this vote, the Republican House members wanted to rescind insurance coverage for those with pre-existing medical conditions. Lately, they’re adding an attack that Republicans attempted to invoke an “age tax”, claiming that the vote to repeal would have increased insurance costs five-fold for people over 50 years of age.

Republicans are countering that the “Medicare for all” plan that some Democrats advocate will cost $32 trillion dollars and result in a “doubling of the income tax.”

Some incumbents, such as Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) and John Culberson (R-TX) are running ads arguing that the “Medicare for all” idea will eliminate private health insurance and, as a result, all will be forced into government programs where federal bureaucrats will make the healthcare decisions, including physician choice and when appointments are granted. The Congressional Leadership Fund, in their ads against various candidates, but specifically Katie Porter (D) who is challenging California Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine), is also using this line of attack.

The race in New York’s 24th Congressional District is currently featuring new healthcare ads from both candidates that are typical of what is being put forth around the country. Two-term Rep. John Katko (R-Syracuse) is defending his seat against Democratic nominee Dana Balter, a visiting professor at Syracuse University’s Maxwell Center, whose ad is displayed near the top of this post.

The Balter ad uses the aforementioned themes, but also blames Rep. Katko for premiums increasing 39 percent under the largest “Obamacare insurer” in the Syracuse region. This is an inconsistent attack since they also hold him responsible for attempting to repeal and thus eliminate the Obama era healthcare law.

Rep. John Katko’s (R-Syracuse) healthcare ad

The Katko response (above) features a nurse practitioner saying that Balter’s ideas will make healthcare worse, driving up the costs, increasing taxes to new heights, and putting bureaucrats in charge of the entire system.

New York’s 24th District covers the Syracuse metropolitan area and then travels to Lake Ontario. It also includes the Auburn and Newark population centers. NY-24 is comprised of Onondaga, Wayne, and Cayuga Counties, and almost two-thirds of Oswego County.

Katko was first elected in 2014 after defeating then-Rep. Dan Maffei (D-Syracuse), 58-39 percent. He was re-elected in 2016, with a 58-38 percent margin. The seat has traded hands of late. After Rep. Jim Walsh (R-Syracuse) had represented the region for 20 years, Maffei won in 2008 when the congressman retired. Rep. Maffei was unseated two years later when Republican Ann Marie Buerkle upset him by less than 700 votes. Maffei returned to defeat Rep. Buerkle in 2012, only to lose again to Katko two years later.

This year, the 24th District race is again competitive, but Rep. Katko remains the clear favorite to win another re-election. The healthcare debate occurring in this campaign is typical of the battles being waged in other districts across the country.

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