Candidates sometimes highlight the health problems of themselves and their families–it provides a window into the struggles they have dealt with, and offers a way to connect with voters.
Much has been written about Ann Romney and her struggle with MS. California candidate for the U.S. Senate Elizabeth Emken got into politics as a parent of a autistic child. San Diego-area Representative Bilbray is now running a TV ad featuring his daughter with terminal cancer.
These are real, often heartwrenching situations, and do demostrate something about the experience and the character of the candidate in question. There has been a debate in Southern California about whether the ad is exploitative (“Bilbray ad focuses on daughter’s cancer“)–but the main question should be the policy positions and votes of Rep. Bilbray.
As with Mitt Romney or Elizabeth Emken, the question is not how they handle these medical issues, but about how their policies and votes would help or hurt those with cancer, MS, or autism. And while their stories are sympathetic, their votes are not.
Rep. Bilbray has repeatedly voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which currently allows over 15,000 Californians with cancer and other pre-existing conditions to get coverage–and in 2014, for all Americans never to be denied or discriminated against for their health status again. His vote would throw those 15,000 Californians off of coverage, uninsured and uninsurable–and allow insurer to continue to deny anybody for pre-existing conditions.
Rep. Bilbray highlights a proposal to support cancer research, but that actually adds no new money against cancer and disease, but rather takes funds (from an indoor tanning tax already in the Affordable Care Act) allocated to providing care and coverage. It’s a contradiction to vote to repeal the ACA and the tanning tax, and then also spend those dollars again. Alternatively, it’s a shame to vote to fund cancer research by raiding funds that go to fund covering cancer and other treatments.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Autism Speaks, the MS Society Action Network, and other disease and health organizations strongly support the Affordable Care Act because they recognize how important it is for their communities to get the basic coverage and care. Shockingly, Mitt Romney, Elizabeth Emken, and Brian Bilbray all oppose the ACA–and haven’t really explained what they would put in place of the ACA. It’s fine to campaign about your experience dealing with medical conditions–but it doesn’t make sense unless it informs your policy and votes.
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