Ossoff, Handel Get Into Highly Charged Debate Over Health Care

Branden Camp/Atlanta Journal-Constitution

During the first debate ahead of the runoff to fill an open U.S. House seat in Georgia, the two candidates butted heads in a charged exchange about the effort to repeal Obamacare underway in Congress.

Republican Karen Handel defended the House GOP’s American Health Care Act in Tuesday night’s debate, hosted by Atlanta TV station WSB, arguing that the current system under Obamacare is “collapsing.” She dismissed an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office projecting that 23 million Americans would end up losing their health insurance under the House bill.

“I reject the premise of the CBO,” she said, adding that the CBO was wrong about Obamacare’s impacts.

Democrat Jon Ossoff criticized Handel for backing a bill “that would gut the protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions.” He also brought up his opponent’s role in the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to cut off its funding for Planned Parenthood.

Handel hit back hard, saying that her sister has a pre-existing condition as she was born without an esophagus. She said it was “outrageous” for Ossoff to “suggest that I would do anything that would negatively affect her.”

She went on to insist that the House GOP bill does offer protections for those with pre-existing conditions. A recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, however, found that under a waiver option the American Health Care Act offers states, there are more than six million people that are vulnerable to being charged more by insurers because they both have a pre-existing condition and a lapse in insurance coverage.

Handel also stressed that she did not “singularly” decide that the Komen foundation would stop funding Planned Parenthood.

“I will not be lectured by you or anyone else,” she told Ossoff.

In response, Ossoff charged that Handel campaigned in 2012 on her role in cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood and noted that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported that Handel “engineered” the move, which resulted in disastrous PR for the organization.

Handel charged that Ossoff has aired misleading ads about her role at the Komen Foundation and suggested that news reports on her efforts may not be accurate.

“You can’t believe everything you read in the press,” she said. “Everyone knows that.”

This post has been updated.