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Politifact VA: Nick Freitas' Record on Pre-Existing Conditions

Nick Freitas
A new ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee claims that Republican candidate Nick Freitas wants to end protections for preexisting conditions. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Speaker: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

Statement:  Nick Freitassupports a plan letting insurance companies deny coverage for preexisting conditions like asthma or diabetes.”

Date: Aug. 26

Ruling: True

Democrats have launched a TV ad accusing Nick Freitas, the Republican congressional candidate in Virginia’s 7th District, of seeking to undermine insurance protections for people with preexisting conditions.

The ad, sponsored by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, features black-and-white photos of Freitas, ominous -sounding piano notes, and footage of an elderly person in a wheelchair, then a young girl sleeping in bed.

“Freitas raked in thousands from the insurance industry and supports a plan letting insurance companies deny coverage for preexisting conditions like asthma or diabetes,” the announcer says.

Freitas is challenging Democratic incumbent Abigail Spanberger in one of the most closely-watched House races in the nation. He raised $1 million as of June 30 and of it, $3,630 - about one-third of 1% - has come from the insurance industry. We’ll let you decide if that would cause a candidate with no tint of scandal to sell out, as the DCCC suggests.

What caught our attention was the second part of the sentence, that Freitas “supports a plan letting insurance companies deny coverage for preexisting conditions like asthma or diabetes.” We decided to fact check it.

The DCCC sources its ad claim with a May 2, 2018 newspaper article in The Virginian-Pilot. Fretitas ran unsuccessfully that spring for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate, and the article was about a debate he had with one of his opponents - E.W. Jackson. One of the topics was the Affordable Care Act, also called “Obamacare,” which mandates a number of health care reforms, including a requirement that insurers provide health coverage for preexisting conditions.

The article quoted Freitas calling Obamacare a “cancer” that will lead to a government-run health care system.

The Democratic Party of Virginia sent us several writings by Freitas expressing scorn for Obamacare. “As your next U.S. Senator, I will lead the fight to repeal Obamacare full-stop,” he wrote on Facebook on June 1, 2018.

Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have long called for abolishing Obamacare while promising to keep its popular guarantee of long-term coverage for  preexisting conditions. But they haven’t agreed on a plan. A major issue has been how can they create a free-market healthcare system and still mandate affordable coverage for preexisting conditions.

Obamacare controls health insurance prices, forbidding an insurer from charging anyone more than three times the premium charged to a healthy 21-year-old for the same policy. If Obamacare was repealed without a replacement plan, insurers could choose to curtail or end coverage for preexisting conditions, or steeply raise the price. 

Republicans have floated several replacement plans but, as PolitiFact National has written, none protected affordable coverage for preexisting conditions as well as Obamacare.

Some Republicans have favored repealing Obamacare before a replacement is found. That includes Freitas.

"Obamacare is hurting people...and yet progressives demand that we find an alternative to Obamacare before we can repeal it,” he wrote on Facebook on Dec. 13, 2014. “This is a little like someone repeatedly punching you in the face and demanding that you find an alternative activity for their fist before they agree to stop."

Freitas doesn’t include health care among six issues he addresses on his campaign website. Joe Desilets, Freitas’ campaign manager, told us Freitas still wants to abolish Obamacare. But he said Freitas is dedicated to protecting coverage for preexisting conditions and, contrary to his 2014 statement, wants a replacement plan before the law is repealed.

Desilits said Freitas is not committed to any specific replacement plan to guarantee coverage of preexisting conditions. “Tax credits, a more targeted health care system. There’s a number of ways you can do it,” he said.

In the General Assembly in 2018, Freitas supported the Trump-ordered expansion of short-term, inexpensive health policies that don’t comply with Obamacare and often don’t cover preexisting conditions.

Former President Barack Obama in 2016 issued a rule limiting short-term policies to 90 days to provide stop-gap policies to people who lost their health coverage and were waiting for enrollment periods to begin on the individual insurance market. In an effort to weaken Obamacare, Trump changed the rule, allowing short-term policies to last 364 days and be renewed twice.

Supporters said the Trump rule would help people without employer-provided insurance who had seen steep premium increases in their ACA-compliant policies. Critics said it would lead to “junk insurance” with high deductibles.

Our ruling

In a TV ad, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee says Freitassupports a plan letting insurance companies deny coverage for preexisting conditions like asthma or diabetes.”

Freitas has repeatedly called for the abolishing Obamacare, which mandates that long-term health insurance policies cover preexisting conditions. In 2014, he said Obamacare should be repealed even without a replacement plan. In 2018, he voted to significantly expand the duration of short-term insurance plans that don’t have to cover preexisting conditions.

All of these positions open the door for the sale of policies that don’t insure preexisting conditions. They overshadow Freitas’ vague promise this year - made through his campaign manager -to protect such coverage while working to end Obamacare.

We rate the DCCC’s claim True.
 

Sources

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, TV ad, Aug. 26, 2020.

The Virginian-Pilot, “Virginia’s Republican Senate candidates repeatedly attack Obama, barely mention Kaine,” May 2, 2018.

Email and interview with Grant Fox, communications director for the Democratic Party of Virginia, Aug. 28, 2020.

Email and interview with Joe Desilets, campaign manager for Nick Freitas, Aug. 31, 2020.

Nick Freitas, Facebook posts, June 1, 2018 and Dec. 13, 2014.

PolitiFact, “Preexisting conditions: Does any GOP proposal match the ACA?” Oct. 17, 2018.

KFF, Health-tracking poll, April 2019. 

Freitas for Congress, “Issues,” accessed Aug. 31, 2020.

Legislative Information System, SB844, 2018 session.

PolitiFact Virginia, “Rodman misstates Dunnavant's short-term health insurance bill,” Sept. 20, 2019.

Center for Responsive Politics, “Virginia District 07 Race,” accessed Aug. 31, 2020.