Fact Checkers Be Damned, Heitkamp Pushes Ahead With False Pre-Existing Conditions Claim

U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) talks with the Grand Forks Herald editorial board in August. Nick Nelson / Forum News Service

President Donald Trump’s rhetoric about “fake news” (both real and imagined) has resulted in the proliferation of a lot of fact checking from the media. But does any of it matter when politicians carry on with perpetrating falsehoods despite multiple confirmations of their falsity?

Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s campaign has been pushing the idea that her opponent, Congressman Kevin Cramer, and his support for repealing Obamacare puts health insurance for over 300,000 North Dakotan’s with pre-existing conditions at risk.

This claim has been found false, or at the very least exaggerated, by four different sources.

…despite this consensus that the claim Heitkamp is making about pre-existing conditions is grossly exaggerated, her campaign continues to put big money behind promoting it.

One is Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread who called the claim “irresponsible at best” when I asked him about it. But Godfread is a politician, and a Republican to boot, so maybe he’s not most dispassionate source for analysis of Heitkamp’s campaign claims.

So how about the Associated Press? “[T]he number of those people who might have had problems getting health insurance before the federal overhaul __ and who would have trouble if it were to be repealed __ is far smaller. That’s because most of the state’s residents are insured through their employer or the government,” the AP reported in a fact check of Heitkamp’s claim last month.

How about Politifact? “[O]nly about a tenth of the 300,000 people in the ad would be directly affected by the laws in question,” they wrote in their own fact check.

How about Newsy? “Even if the Affordable Care Act were repealed or replaced, the number who would lose coverage is far smaller, only including people who aren’t part of a group plan, like through an employer,” they reported over the holiday weekend under a headline stating that Heitkamp’s claim “isn’t accurate.”

Yet despite this consensus that the claim Heitkamp is making about pre-existing conditions is grossly exaggerated, her campaign continues to put big money behind promoting it. Not only is the Heitkamp campaign television ad “Denise” (which the Cramer campaign has asked the Heitkamp campaign to stop running citing the aforementioned fact checks) but the Heitkamp campaign is putting big money behind a Facebook ad campaign which makes the claim.

According to Facebook’s political advertising database, starting September 1 the Heitkamp campaign has made a very large ad buy pushing the same exaggerated claim about North Dakota’s with pre-existing conditions that was debunked by the Associated Press, etc.

Heitkamp’s campaign is running 43 campaigns each facing this identical ad, and putting thousands behind the whole enterprise.

And yet, the claim at the center of this ad (much as with the “Denise” television ad) is exaggerated to the point where it is false.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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