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Heitkamp campaign pushes back after Cramer camp demands ad's removal

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

BISMARCK — The campaign for Sen. Heidi Heitkamp pushed back on a demand from Rep. Kevin Cramer's camp to discontinue an ad on pre-existing medical conditions Monday, Aug. 27, after it was scrutinized by fact-checkers.

The ad in question starts with Heitkamp, a Democrat, stating: "Like 300,000 North Dakotans, (Denise Sandvick of Killdeer, N.D.,) has a pre-existing condition. That used to mean no health insurance."

Although the ad doesn't explicitly mention the Affordable Care Act, it extends the fight over one of the law's most popular provisions.

Pat Finken, Cramer's campaign manager, said most North Dakotans are covered by employer or government health plans and would be unaffected by changes to the ACA. He wrote an email to Heitkamp's campaign manager, Libby Schneider, Monday, which the Republican congressman's campaign later released to the media.

"This race is far too important to North Dakotans for Heitkamp to be purposely providing misleading information to voters," Finken said in a statement.

Heitkamp's campaign defended the ad and noted the ACA included certain protections for employer plans as well. The senator's campaign spokeswoman Julia Krieger said the fact-checking website PolitiFact "verified Cramer's record of undermining pre-existing condition protections, while Heidi will always fight for North Dakotans like Denise."

The Associated Press said Heitkamp's ad was "about right" on the number of people with pre-existing conditions but includes overstated claims about how many wouldn't be able to get insurance. Politifact rated the claims as "half-true," noting that Cramer has voted to "prevent health care companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions," but "the limits of what insurance companies could charge would have been watered down, which would have sent premiums skyrocketing, experts say, to the point that coverage for many would be unattainable."

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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