The camera pans across pictures of a woman in the hospital before Whitney from Queen Creek begins telling viewers about her rare blood disorder that requires monthly chemotherapy.
In the 30-second ad that began airing last week, Whitney says she fears health care plans from Democrats Mark Kelly and Joe Biden, saying the men would put “government in charge of our health care.”
She urges people to vote for Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., whom she assures will protect those with pre-existing conditions.
What the ad doesn't say is that the speaker, Whitney Lawrence, is the former statewide field director for former Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., before he abandoned his re-election bid in October 2017.
It's also the second health care ad in four months from McSally's campaign that involves a testimonial from a former GOP political operative, though viewers wouldn't know it from the ads alone.
In April, McSally’s campaign turned to cancer survivor Kristen Douglas, but didn’t identify her as a former campaign and congressional staffer for McSally.
Lawrence, 30, said she doesn't think her past political experience, which also involved working for a GOP-friendly consulting firm and a Senate race in Nevada, is relevant to viewers.
“I don't think it matters. While I have worked in Republican politics, it doesn't mean I'm immune to life's struggles and health issues,” she said in an interview. “My experience doesn't change my story any less.”
It actually does matter that the woman in the ad is a GOP operative because McSally has been lying about her record on health care which cost her the 2018 election against current U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D. AZ):
Only one national law makes sure people with preexisting medical conditions don't face discrimination or higher prices from insurers. It's the Affordable Care Act.
Both as a member of the House of Representatives and as a senator, McSally has supported efforts to undo the health law — voting in 2015 to repeal it and in 2017 to replace it with the Republican-backed American Health Care Act, which would have permitted insurers to charge higher premiums for people with complicated medical histories.
“Anyone who voted for that bill was voting to take away the ACA's preexisting condition protections,” said Jonathan Oberlander, a health policy professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. “Sen. McSally is trying to erase history for electoral purposes.”
Especially as COVID-19 cases climb, health care — and, in particular, the ACA — has emerged as a flashpoint in the Arizona election, said Dr. Daniel Derksen, a professor of public health, medicine and nursing at the University of Arizona.
“Martha McSally has in her actions, in her votes, been pretty consistent about cutting back benefits and trying to repeal the ACA without any clear plan in mind that would protect people who gained insurance through the ACA,” Derksen added. “Her words on preexisting condition protections don't align with any votes I've seen.”
McSally's campaign argued that the ACA is just one strategy, and a flawed one at that. Dylan Lefler, her campaign manager, instead pointed to her support of the Republican-backed Protect Act as evidence to back up her promise. Specifically, it ostensibly bans insurance plans from “impos[ing] any preexisting condition exclusion with respect to … coverage,” per the bill text.
The problem, though, is that simply banning that exclusion isn't enough, because the law also has to make sure the health insurance plans that cover preexisting conditions remain affordable. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), does nothing to provide subsidies or cost-sharing mechanisms — meaning people both with and without preexisting conditions wouldn't necessarily be able to afford those plans. Without that framework, the act remains a “meaningless promise,” argued Linda Blumberg, a fellow at the Urban Institute, a social policy think tank.
And it has other holes: for instance, permitting insurers to charge women more than men.
“No six-page bill is ever the way of achieving something,” said Thomas Miller, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. “This is a check-the-box effort to try to say, 'We're [moving] in that direction.'”
It's not just legislation. There's also Texas v. Azar, a pending case in which a group of Republican attorneys general are arguing the Supreme Court should strike the entire health law, including its preexisting condition protections. The Trump administration has sided with the Republican states.
McSally has consistently declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying she doesn't want to weigh in on “a judicial proceeding.” In reporting this fact check, we asked where she stood on the case. The campaign didn't specifically answer but pointed to her general disapproval of the ACA. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats have called on the administration to reverse its stance.
That context makes McSally's silence especially relevant, said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University.
“When given the opportunity, she has declined to oppose this lawsuit, which would essentially eliminate the protections that exist,” Corlette said.
So — big picture? McSally's record in Washington hasn't been one of preserving or building on preexisting condition protections.
It also goes to show that she can’t find real Arizona constituents who are willing to testify on her behalf on her record. The voters rejected her in 2018 and based on the recent polling, they are going to reject her in 2020:
Retired astronaut Mark Kelly leads Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., by nine points in a new poll published on Tuesday.
The poll, conducted by OH Predictive Insights among 600 likely voters with a margin of error of 4%, shows Kelly leading McSally 52-43.
The poll shows that Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., has cut into McSally's base of support. Kelly has 91% support among self-identified Democrats, while McSally has only 81% support from her own party's voters.
Kelly also leads McSally by 40 points among moderates, 27 points among independents and 19 points among women.
“The formula for a Republican winning statewide office in Arizona involves locking up the GOP vote and garnering just enough independents,” pollster Mike Noble said. “Sen. McSally appears to be having a difficult time doing either.”
McSally is one of the most vulnerable Republicans facing re-election after losing her previous Senate race to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. In 2018, McSally became the first Republican to lose a Senate race in the state in three decades years. Despite her loss, Gov. Doug Ducey appointed her to the vacated seat previously held by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
And today’s Arizona polling also show that voters are looking like they are going to reject Trump: