The Agenda

Health Care Looms as a Top Election Issue in Minnesota’s 2nd

Last Thursday, incumbent Minnesota Congressman Jason Lewis voted to cut Medicare and Medicaid as part of the Republicans’ proposal to balance the budget by 2027. “We have to go back to real health care reform that allows people to buy the policy they want,” he said. The GOP proposal aims to balance the budget by severely scaling back social programs.

The Washington Post notes that though the proposal is largely symbolic and unlikely to reach a floor vote, it “nonetheless serves as an expression of Republicans’ priorities at a time of rapidly rising deficits and debt”. (The Post also notes that a key influence behind the rising deficits is the GOP’s own tax law, which is projected to put the national about $1 trillion in the red.” 

Polls consistently find that the electorate is coming to terms with the Affordable Care Act and that healthcare is a top policy priority. A new poll by Hart Research found that 66% of voters oppose the Trump Administration’s attempt to gut protections for pre-existing conditions. Another recent NBC News poll in early June found more than one in five voters named health care as their top concern in the upcoming midterm elections. 

Angie Craig is challenging Jason Lewis in Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District. She is a former healthcare executive and firmly supports protecting patients with pre-existing conditions. “51 percent of non-elderly people in MN-02 have pre-existing conditions. This will give insurance companies all the power again to deny people coverage,” she said.

“This action by the Trump administration only adds uncertainty and higher costs for Americans,” Craig told the Star Tribune. “When the administration does something that will harm voters and people in the district, it is our responsibility as a member of Congress to speak out and speak up, and he’s complicit in his silence.”

The Tribune adds:

Lewis, she said, and other Republicans “have come up with nothing that would fix a broken health care system in the time that they have been in Washington.” Unlike some other Democratic candidates, Craig said she does not endorse the single-payer proposal as outlined by some House Democrats. She supports a high-risk reinsurance program at the federal level, her campaign said, and wants to allow consumers to buy into Medicare to compete with large insurance companies along with addressing prescription drug pricing by allowing reimportation from Canada.

As healthcare remains atop voters’ minds throughout the country, it’s poised to be particularly resonant in Minnesota. In 2017, Minnesota experience one of the “largest, one-time increases in the rate of people without health insurance since 2001,” according to the Minnesota Department of Health. 349,000 Minnesotans are currently without coverage — 116,000 more than the uninsured rate just two years ago.

From a sheer numbers perspective, the volume of Minnesotans who rely on Medicare and Medicaid could pose an electoral risk to incumbents like Lewis. In 2016, 73.4% of eligible Minnesotans cast a ballot and voter turnout is usually 15 to 20 points higher than the national rate.

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About the race: Angie Craig is a healthcare executive with St. Jude Medical and the 2016 Democratic nominee for this seat. She lost to Lewis by 1.8 points in 2016, the second-closest margin of any losing Democratic congressional candidate. Angie would have carried this district in 2016 without a third-party challenger and is currently emphasizing her healthcare expertise and working-class background to voters.

2018