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GOP senator attacks stage 4 cancer survivor who criticized his health care record

Heller wants you to believe he "stood up for Nevadans for pre-existing conditions." He hasn't.

Trump and Heller on September 20. (CREDIT: Gett images)
Trump and Heller on September 20. (CREDIT: Gett images)

In a statement posted to his website, Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) attacks stage 4 cancer survivor Laura Packard as a “Democrat political operative” while falsely claiming he’s “stood up for Nevadans for pre-existing conditions.”

In reality, as ThinkProgress detailed, Heller and every other Senate Republican with the sole exception of Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) voted on Wednesday “against blocking the Trump administration’s expansion of health plans that can deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.” And as The Hill notes, last year Heller co-sponsored a bill that would have allowed states “to get waivers to allow insurers to charge people with pre-existing conditions higher premiums.”

Packard — a self-employed small business owner who had stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma and health insurance through an Affordable Care Act exchange — was thrown out of a town hall even featuring Heller last December after she tried to ask him why he supports legislation that would strip coverage from people like her. She appears in a new ad for Heller’s Democratic opponent, Jacky Rosen.

“One in four Nevadans has a pre-existing condition, like I do,” Packard says in the ad. “And Dean Heller is lying about helping us.”

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In the post on his website, Heller claims that he “stood up for Nevadans with pre-existing conditions during last summer’s vote to fix our broken health care law [by voting] for ‘skinny repeal,’ which even the liberal Center for American Progress admitted protected patients with pre-existing conditions.” (Disclosure: ThinkProgress is an editorially independent publication housed in the Center for American Progress.)

But the CAP analysis Heller links to actually concludes the opposite.

“The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that repeal of the individual mandate would result in 15 million fewer Americans having health insurance a decade from now,” it says, before going on to detail how “skinny repeal” would cause premiums to rise by allowing “younger and healthier individuals may decide to forgo individual market coverage.”

Packard pushed back on Heller in a statement, saying that the senator “is trying to intimidate me into silence by targeting me in the the press.”

“This is the Republican strategy: when they can’t defend their votes on sabotaging our health care, they lie about those votes and choose to attack individual constituent after constituent who dares to speak out,” she continued.

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Indeed, as ThinkProgress has previously reported, Heller is far from the only Republican running for office this November on a platform of lying to voters about their health care votes.