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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Truth Squad | Does Bill Schuette care if sick people can get insurance?

Gretchen Whitmer’s gubernatorial campaign has repackaged Democratic attacks on Bill Schuette for his repeated efforts as Michigan attorney general to strike down the Affordable Care Act.

Because the ad reaches a conclusion not necessarily supported by the facts, Truth Squad rates the attack misleading.

THE CLAIM:

The 30-second TV spot, titled “Battles,” begins with Whitmer recounting the fights she had many years ago with an insurance company that denied her mother chemotherapy as she was dying from brain cancer.

Whitmer then says: “Bill Schuette thinks insurance companies should be allowed to deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions.” As she speaks, a graphic flashes on the screen that reads, “Bill Schuette tried… to overturn the Affordable Care Act.”

This marks the second time Truth Squad has weighed in on Schuette’s professed support for people with preexisting medical conditions being guaranteed insurance coverage. It’s a claim that has raised skepticism from critics given Schuette’s penchant as attorney general for trying to destroy the very law that provided that guarantee. He even once joined a suit that, had it been successful (it was not), would have cost Michigan consumers  millions of dollars in health coverage tax credits.

Just last month, Truth Squad rated a Michigan Democratic Party claim fair for reminding voters of lawsuit after lawsuit Schuette’s office filed or joined since 2011 challenging the constitutionality of what’s popularly known as Obamacare.

Those allegations passed Truth Squad muster because they merely pointed out the discrepancy between what Schuette has said over the years (“I want to make sure you have coverage for pre-existing conditions.”) and what his office sought in court (the demise of Obamacare). Through his office’s actions, Truth Squad ruled, Schuette had opened the door to such criticism.  

Whitmer’s TV ad goes a bit further, however ‒ from contesting his actions to divining his intent.  

It, too, accurately recounts Schuette’s efforts to strike down the ACA. But then Whitmer says: “Bill Schuette thinks insurance companies should be allowed to deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions.”

CONCLUSION

Schuette may or may not think insurers should have that choice. But he certainly has never explicitly said it.

To the contrary, Schuette has consistently said, since at least 2014, that even though he opposes the ACA, he supports keeping protections for pre-existing conditions.

“From the moment we talked about the failures and fallacies of the Affordable Care Act, I said very clearly from Day One that you have to cover pre-existing conditions,” Schuette told Bridge and the Detroit Journalism Cooperative last week.

“They’re using scare tactics,” he said of Whitmer’s campaign.

Criticize him, as many have, for telling sick people that he favors their right to insurance coverage without providing a concrete plan for how he would make that happen had a court struck down Obamacare. Critics have also noted that Schuette (who is endorsed by President Donald Trump) did not criticize bills favored by Trump and congressional Republicans that could have raised costs for people with pre-existing conditions.

But from the evidence submitted, Whitmer cannot support the conclusion that Schuette “thinks insurance companies should be allowed to deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions.”  

We rate the claim misleading.

Bridge Staff Writer Lindsay VanHulle contributed to this report.

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