Slotkin, Junge face off on health care, pandemic response, impeachment
U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin criticized her Republican challenger Paul Junge after he used the congresswoman’s mother as an example of the hurdle health care premiums create in terms of access to health care in the U.S.
Slotkin, D-Holly, has often cited her mother’s case as one of the reasons she ran in 2018, noting that her mother did not have health insurance when she was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer.
But on Sunday, during the 8th Congressional District candidates' second of three debates on WDIV-TV, Slotkin argued Junge had misrepresented her mother’s situation.
"With all due respect, if you're going to talk about my mother's case, then you shouldn't talk about it without knowing anything about it," Slotkin said.
Junge had argued that part of the solution to help people maintain health care insurance was to keep premiums low and stated that was one of the issues keeping Slotkin’s mother from getting coverage.
The government could keep those premiums low, he said, by “doing things like not putting undue burdens and regulations that require certain type of coverage someone might not want. It’s allowing insurance companies to provide coverage across state lines.”
Slotkin in turn accused him of deflecting on hard questions about his plans for health care.
“My mother’s case wasn’t that she couldn’t afford insurance because of undue regulation,” Slotkin said. “It’s because she had a preexisting cancer that she had had 30 years ago and that forever and ever and ever every insurance company felt that they could gouge her and charge her a thousand dollars a month and $10,000 deductible.”
Both Junge and Slotkin have acknowledged the current health care system needs changes.
Junge said he didn't support the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which goes before the U.S. Supreme Court in November, but supported a system that continued employer-provided health care. Slotkin, in turn, has said repeatedly she would not support Medicare-for-All.
“I’ve also never seen an actual plan with numbers behind it that explains how we’re going to pay for it, that explains what happens to all those folks who work in the health care industry, who work in the insurance world and all the folks who do like their employer-provided insurance,” Slotkin said.
The 30-minute debate ranged from trade policy to coronavirus to partisan division as both candidates made their case to voters in the 8th Congressional District, which includes Ingham, Livingston and part of Oakland County. Slotkin flipped the district in 2018 when she won the seat from incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop.
Junge, a former prosecutor and TV anchor from Brighton, criticized Slotkin, arguing the Congresswoman had promised voters to be a moderate in Congress but had instead showed partisanship by siding with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He highlighted Slotkin’s impeachment vote as an example.
“I’m putting up policies that are consistent with Republican leadership,” Junge said, of his own loyalties to his party. “The key difference here is that Congresswoman Slotkin presented herself as somehow uniquely independent or bipartisan and she just simply isn’t.”
Slotkin defended her bipartisan record in Congress. And she argued Junge sought to avoid giving detailed policy positions by deflecting all questions with an attack on her record.
She said she knew that her impeachment vote would be controversial and perhaps “career-ending," but felt it was the right course of action.
“But I still believe that even if people don’t agree with me, they want leaders who have integrity,” she said. “And I risked my job to take that vote.”
Junge said Congress should have a better and quicker response at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic. But he also acknowledge the response has been "imperfect" from both both President Donald Trump and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Both Junge and Slotkin said the public health and economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic were among the most pressing issues facing constituents. But Slotkin said, prior to the pandemic, health care and prescription drug affordability were the issues about which she heard most.
Slotkin, when asked about the federal government’s response to the pandemic, said she would give it a “C+”.
“I think we got a really slow start from the federal government and what it did was pit states against each other to get things like masks and gloves and just basic supplies,” said Slotkin, who said the situation has shown the importance of making more supplies in Michigan.