Congress

Health care law supporters launch August tour

Route will include states where Republican senators face competitive reelection races

Advocacy group hopes to draw a contrast between Democrats, whose health care plans focus on increasing affordability and coverage, with the Trump administration and Republicans, who oppose the 2010 health law (File photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

 An advocacy group that supports the 2010 health law will launch a national tour next month with the hope of carrying its success from last year’s campaigns into the 2020 election cycle.

Protect Our Care, a group formed to defend the law, plans at least 22 events in August across the country, according to information first shared exclusively with CQ Roll Call.

The effort will highlight an issue that helped Democrats win control of the House last year and is likely to be a key issue in next year’s election.

“It really is to focus on what has not changed since the election,” Brad Woodhouse, the group’s executive director, told CQ Roll Call. “We had an election that was about health care. It was the No. 1 issue in the election. It’s what swept Democrats into power in the House.”

Woodhouse said the group hopes to draw a contrast between Democrats, whose health care plans focus on increasing affordability and coverage, with the Trump administration and Republicans, who oppose the 2010 health law.

[Health care continues to define, divide 2020 Democratic field]

The tour is set to begin Aug. 5 and will hit 13 states, including those where Republican senators face competitive reelection races next year and Protect Our Care hopes to make health care an issue. Protect Our Care staffers will join lawmakers, local officials and health care advocates at stops on the tour.

A CBS poll of early voting and early caucus states released Sunday found health care was “very important” and the top policy issue for 88 percent of respondents, giving the group hope that Democrats will maintain an advantage on health care going into 2020.

In some regions, Woodhouse said the group wants to support freshmen Democrats — many of whom hold previously Republican seats — who voiced concern about health care during their first terms, while other stops are meant to criticize sitting Republicans for 2017 votes to roll back the health care law.

The group will seek to do both in some places, such as Denver, where Democratic Rep. Jason Crow last year defeated a Republican incumbent. Republican Sen. Cory Gardner is up for reelection in the swing state.

The group hopes to highlight the Texas v. United States lawsuit challenging the health law after the 2017 tax overhaul effectively ended the penalty for not having health insurance coverage. A federal appeals court heard an appeal in the case earlier this month.

While the lawsuit hasn’t yet been a major issue among Democratic presidential candidates in the primary, it could be a focus in the general election since the Trump administration called for the entire law to be struck down and the Democratic nominee will likely not support such a move.

A stop in Youngstown, Ohio, will focus more on contrasting President Donald Trump with the Democratic party, Woodhouse said.

Democratic presidential hopefuls have been debating the next steps on health care and whether to move toward a government-run, single-payer system or expand on the 2010 law with a public plan that would compete with private insurance plans.

“Obviously, we think that just as in 2018, the focus of the health care discussion needed to be on what Republicans did and tried to do,” Woodhouse said. “The same is true, in our view, in 2020. It needs to be about Trump.”

At the same time, Republicans have sought to pillory some Democrats’ support for a government-run plan known as “Medicare for All.” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma is set to give remarks on the proposal at the right-leaning Heritage Foundation next week.

Verma has criticized single-payer system proposals for almost a year, but expanded that to the idea of a public option this week.

“I view a public option and Medicare for All as equally dangerous, and history backs me up. In a well-functioning market where insurers compete on price and quality, high-performers are rewarded for efficiency and innovation,” she said Monday in a speech to the Better Medicare Alliance.

Instead, Verma argued the Trump administration would seek to improve competition in the health care marketplace and drive down costs.

“We will protect the Medicare and Medicaid programs and strengthen them for future generations,” she said. “We believe that our role in government should be to promote a healthy and competitive free market where providers and insurers compete on the basis of cost and quality, and patients are incentivized to seek high-value providers.”

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.