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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Fact Squad | Ad falsely claims John James would deny millions health insurance

LANSING — A new TV ad targeting John James claims he supports health care changes that would eliminate protections for pre-existing conditions and leave millions without insurance. 

The claim comes from Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic super PAC pouring money into high-stakes Senate races nationwide. James, a Detroit-area businessman, faces first-term incumbent Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, this fall. 

The ad is built around a hypothetical and is misleading. While James has supported repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, he’s never supported the changes referenced in the ad.

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The Claims

The ad opens with James telling Fox News that “health care is extremely important and we need to make sure that we’re not pulling the rug out from under people.”

The ad claims James “supported a health care plan that would take away protections for 4.1 million Michiganders with pre-existing conditions.”

“James’ plan would leave 23 million Americans without health insurance,” the ad continues. It concludes that James is “wrong on health care, wrong for Michigan.”

The Facts

Republicans have sought to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act since it became law in 2010.

The ad’s numbers are correct on who is protected under the ACA: The Center for American Progress, a Democratic-leaning public policy think tank, estimated in 2019 that 4.1 million Michiganders with pre-existing conditions would stand to lose coverage through ACA if the law was struck down in the pending Supreme Court case Texas v. United States.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that 23 million Americans would have lost health insurance under a House GOP proposal to repeal and replace the ACA — known as the American Health Care Act — that was considered in 2017 and failed in the U.S. Senate. That was before James even began his campaign.

So while the ad’s numbers are accurate, it’s unfair to say they reflect James’ “plan.”

That’s partly because James is squishy on exactly how he would replace the Affordable Care Act.

James has said during both his 2018 and 2020 campaigns that he supports repealing and replacing the ACA, but that his preferred solution would include coverage for pre-existing conditions. That’s also on his current campaign site, in addition to general details of what he would look for in his preferred health care plan.

“We must have a market-based, patient-centered approach that must cover preexisting conditions,” James said during a 2018 debate with Sen. Debbie Stabenow at the Detroit Economic Club.

Even so, millions would lose insurance if the Trump administration and Republican attorneys general prevail in their case to strike down the ACA.

When asked by Bridge if James supports the lawsuit, a spokesperson said he “doesn’t support a repeal without a replacement.”

The Conclusion

The ad uses real data showing what’s at stake for Michiganders and Americans if the ACA were repealed but reaches a false conclusion about James’ stance on health care.

The proposal that the ad calls “James’ plan” died before he was even a political candidate. 

No doubt, more specifics are needed from James on what he would do to ensure millions don’t lose coverage if the ACA is repealed, but he has always been consistent that a replacement should include protections for pre-existing conditions.

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