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Health Care As An Election Issue


And health care seems to be a driving issue in the midterm elections. Candidates who'd previously voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, have often adjusted their views on health care on the campaign trail.

Republican Representative John Faso is running for re-election in New York's Hudson Valley. He voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But just last month, he signed a resolution to affirm the importance of protecting certain provisions of the law. He joins us now. Representative Faso, thanks so much for being with us.

JOHN FASO: Good morning. My pleasure.

SIMON: Why vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act if you think it's important to keep the coverage it guarantees for pre-existing conditions?

FASO: Well, the bill we voted on in the House actually does that. It protects protections for pre-existing conditions for everyone. And it's a misrepresentation by Democrats to suggest that it doesn't.

SIMON: Well, what would you say to constituents, for example, who might say, in this case, well, you know, if you're going to be in favor of features of the Affordable Care Act, I might as well vote for, in your case, the Democratic opponent is Antonio Delgado, who is running against you. I'm just going to vote for a Democrat who supports all of the ACA.

FASO: Well, I ran in 2016 saying I would keep what works in the Affordable Care Act and fix what doesn't. There's a bunch in the ACA - namely, protections for pre-existing conditions, allowing kids to stay on their parents' policy till 26 - that are fine - that most people agree with.

But the fact of the matter is we've seen spiraling increases in premiums and deductibles. You know, Scott, what good is insurance if you're a middle-class person and you've got an $8,000 deductible? I hear from businesses all over my district who tell me they can no longer afford to provide health care for their employees. I've heard from businesses that say they've reduced their full-time payroll count to under 50 to avoid the employer mandate.

So there are a lot of problems with how the ACA was constructed, and that's what we need to fix.

SIMON: This week, as you know, the majority leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, raised the idea of trying to repeal Obamacare again, should Republicans be returned to power in the Senate. Would you be in favor of that?

FASO: What I'm in favor of is fixing what doesn't work in the Affordable Care Act. And I think that it would be important for us to do this on a bipartisan basis. I belong to a group called the Problem Solvers in the House, which is equally composed of Democrats and Republicans. We've offered a multipart proposal to address the flaws in the ACA and to ensure that the insurance markets work more properly and that we can lower premiums and deductibles for everyone.

But the bottom line...

SIMON: But let me ask.

FASO: Sure.

SIMON: Does that mean you would vote against repeal?

FASO: It means that I would vote to replace the Affordable Care Act with measures that fix it. And that...

SIMON: But, I mean, if there was a vote to repeal, you would vote no?

FASO: Strictly on a vote of if that were the choice before us, which I don't think we would hypothetically have, that's correct.

But I think it's important to recognize what the Democrats want to do, and what their real agenda is, is the single-payer scheme, which would make illegal employer-provided health insurance. It would double our taxes. And it would create a death spiral with debt and deficits into the future.

And every single country that has a nationalized system like this has annual debates as to what they can afford to pay and what they will cover. So these debates don't go away if you hand all the control over to the government.

SIMON: I'm sure Democrats would say - at least a lot of Democrats would say they certainly aren't in favor of a national health care system that way. But I do have to move on to the death of Jamal Khashoggi.

FASO: Sure.

SIMON: What do you think of the Saudi explanation?

FASO: It's very lame. It's an outrage what they've done. Their actions have been deeply offensive, I think, to Americans, regardless of political opinion here at home. And I do think that it's a very complicated issue for us.

SIMON: We've got 30 seconds left. Complicated in that the Saudis have so much money invested here?

FASO: No. It's complicated in that we have a - the major regional adversary in that part of the world is Iran. And the Saudis are aligned with us against the Iranian exploits in the Middle East. And so this is what makes it very difficult. But I think we have to speak plainly to the Saudis and tell them that this is going to change our relationship.

SIMON: Representative John Faso of New York state, thanks so much for being with us.

FASO: Thank you. My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.