Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence drew stark distinctions in tone and substance on the issue of healthcare at the vice presidential debate on Wednesday night.
In a segment talking about the economy, Harris, the Democratic nominee for vice president, praised the Affordable Care Act, one of the signature policy achievements under the Obama administration. She pointed out that the ACA provided more than 20 million Americans with healthcare and put in place protections for people with preexisting conditions, and contrasted that with the Trump administration's repeated efforts at repealing those protections.
"On the other hand, Donald Trump is in court trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, which means that you will lose protections if you have preexisting conditions," she said.
Then Harris looked into the camera and spoke directly to viewers.
"If you have a preexisting condition — heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer —they're coming for you. If you love someone with a preexisting condition, they're coming for you. If you're under the age of 26 on your parents' coverage, they're coming for you," she said.
When it was his turn to respond, Pence said he and the president "have a plan to improve healthcare and protect preexisting conditions for every American," in reference to Trump's plan on healthcare that he unveiled weeks ago.
The plan, which came in the form of an executive order, declared that it is "the policy of the United States" to protect people with preexisting conditions, but does not explain how exactly the administration will protect them without the ACA, which Trump and Republicans have been trying to overturn in court.
"Sen. Harris, you're entitled to your own opinion, but you're not entitled to your own facts," Pence said, appearing to end his rebuttal on the topic of the administration's healthcare plan before bringing up fossil fuels.
But the issue came up again later in the night, with Harris bringing up Trump's effort to repeal the ACA in court amid a pandemic that she said his administration has mishandled. The millions of people in the US who have contracted the coronavirus and survived, she added, will likely be considered to have a preexisting condition by health insurance companies.
"Donald Trump is in court right now trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. I said it before, and it bears repeating," she said. "This means that there will be no more protections, if they win, for people with preexisting conditions. This means that over 20 million people will lose your coverage."
Moderator Susan Page of USA Today then directed a question about the Trump administration's support for a lawsuit to strike down the ACA to Pence.
"President Trump says he's going to protect people with preexisting conditions, but not how he's going to do that," Page said. "How would your administration protect people with preexisting conditions if the Affordable Care Act is struck down?"
For the second time that night, Pence dodged the question and instead asked Harris whether she and Biden would pack the Supreme Court.