Cancer survivors spar in Wisconsin governor’s race over protections for pre-existing conditions

Rebecca Kleefisch

MILWAUKEE -- Two cancer survivors in the Wisconsin governor's race battled Monday over who will protect people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, a colon cancer survivor, said Walker will not take away the protections despite his support for repealing the national health law known as Obamacare.

"His lieutenant governor -- that's me -- has a pre-existing condition," Kleefisch told reporters at a news conference. "I'm the poster child for pre-existing conditions."

Kleefisch stepped into the controversy after a group funded by the Democratic Governor's Association began running an attack ad saying Walker would seek to end the protections.

Tony Evers

Meanwhile, Democratic challenger and esophageal cancer survivor Tony Evers challenged Walker to stop his opposition to Obamacare.

Wisconsin is among the states that are suing to undo the national health law in court. Republicans' efforts to repeal it in Congress -- which Walker supported -- failed.

Evers said Monday in a recorded video message that the lawsuit was wrong.

"I have a challenge for you," Evers said, directing his message at Walker. "If you want to protect the millions of Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions, drop Wisconsin from this lawsuit today – because actions speak louder than empty political promises."

Mandela Barnes

Obamacare requires insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions. Walker says he supports that part of the law and, if Obamacare ends, would call a special session of the Legislature to create a state version of the protection.

"Pre-existing conditions in Wisconsin today are covered. and as long as the governor and I are in office, they always will be," Kleefisch said.

Evers' running mate, Mandela Barnes, questioned Walker's ability to follow through on the promise of creating new protections if Obamacare goes away.

"The Legislature would then have to act on the issue to make sure that people with pre-existing conditions could be covered, and it’s not a guarantee that they would even pass anything to make sure people have the care that they deserve," Barnes said in an interview.

Scott Walker

The health care debate flared up the day before new Marquette University Law School Poll results are due. Previous polls have showed Evers and Walker in a dead heat.