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Florida Democrats hold events to bash Ron DeSantis on health care

Democrats held a brief press conference in St. Petersburg, and DeSantis' opponent, Andrew Gillum, spoke in south Florida.
File photo of Rick Kriseman, who spoke at a press conference criticizing Ron DeSantis for his stance on health care Tuesday, Sept. 25. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
File photo of Rick Kriseman, who spoke at a press conference criticizing Ron DeSantis for his stance on health care Tuesday, Sept. 25. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published Sep. 25, 2018
Updated Sep. 25, 2018

It's like 2010 and 2014, but the exact opposite.

Democrats are attacking Republicans on health care with increasing frequency, and in the age of Donald Trump, voters seem to be responding.

The issue has become central to the Florida governor's race, with Democrats taking every possible opportunity to bring up Republican Ron DeSantis' vote for the 2017 American Health Care Act. Tuesday, they were on the offensive again, launching a new television ad and staging events around the state to highlight what they claim is the former Congressman's record of undermining protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

"When campaigning for the U.S. Senate in 2015, he said, 'I am committed to the full and complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act," St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said at a press conference of Democratic elected officials Tuesday. "And he meant it."

Also in St. Petersburg were Kristen King, the wife of Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Chris King, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and Democratic state senate candidate Lindsay Cross. Meanwhile, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum also held events in Miami and West Palm Beach to talk pre-existing conditions.

The events featured brief speeches from elected officials and local caregivers, all of whom decried Republican efforts to overturn the ACA's protection of people with pre-existing conditions. Under the law, insurance companies are not allowed to deny coverage from Americans already suffering from a medical condition. Florida is among a coalition of 20 states currently suing to end the protections under the ACA.

Read about that lawsuit here.

In 2017, House Republicans also passed the American Health Care Act, which repealed the ACA and its protections and replaced it with a much less robust system of government health care subsidies. DeSantis voted for that bill — a vote Democrats say he will come to regret — but the repeal effort died in the Senate.

Stephen Lawson, a spokesman for DeSantis, said DeSantis supports protections for pre-existing conditions.

"Ron DeSantis fully supports covering pre-existing conditions, which is what the bill he voted for ensures," Lawson said. "Andrew Gillum's attacks are a desperate attempt to distract from his disastrous single-payer healthcare proposal."

When a Republican congressman claimed, as Lawson did, that the AHCA protected people with pre-existing conditions, PolitiFact rated the claim "mostly false." The AHCA did bar insurers from denying coverage to medically needy Americans, but not from charging sick patients substantially more than under the ACA.

There is evidence that Democrats, for the first time in a decade, are winning on health care. A Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday showed that health care is the top concern of Florida voters, and the ACA's protections for people with pre-existing conditions are among its most popular aspects.

This story has been updated to reflect comments from the DeSantis campaign.