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Ad check: So who's really on the side of insurance companies — Hawley or McCaskill?

Ad check: So who's really on the side of insurance companies — Hawley or McCaskill?

McCaskill, Hawley to square off in first debate

"Boy, does he learn fast," said incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who receives a glare from Republican challenger Attorney General Josh Hawley during the Missouri Press Association's senatorial debate on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, at the Sheraton Westport Lakeside Chalet. The senate race is one of the nation's most closely watched races and among a handful expected to decide which party controls the Senate, where Republicans hold a 51-49 advantage. Photo by Laurie Skrivan,

WASHINGTON • So who’s really on the side of insurance companies?

A new commercial for Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., cites her successful battle against breast cancer in attacking her Republican opponent, Attorney General Josh Hawley, for joining a lawsuit with more than a dozen other states that McCaskill says would threaten the insurance of people with pre-existing conditions.

Hawley disputes that claim. He says that he, too, favors protecting people with pre-existing conditions.

In the kicker of McCaskill’s ad, she says that “the insurance companies already have too many senators on their side.”

Hawley is responding with a digital ad calling out McCaskill on that claim.

The basis? McCaskill is the second-ranking recipient of money from “insurance companies,” according to the latest data analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics.

“What a hypocrite,” Hawley says in his ad.

That Center for Responsive Politics ranking shows that McCaskill has received about $287,000 from political action committees and individuals from insurance companies in this election cycle, second only to Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. That is more than other senators in tight Senate re-election races in Nevada, North Dakota and other states, and it is reflective of McCaskill’s robust fundraising across the board.

There is a caveat, however. “Insurance companies” as identified by the Center for Responsive Politics include life and car insurance along with health insurance, as McCaskill’s campaign points out. McCaskill’s original ad was about health insurance.

Hawley’s campaign says that doesn’t matter, correctly pointing out that McCaskill makes no distinction in her claims that “the insurance companies already have too many senators on their side.” And on that point, McCaskill is the second-biggest recipient of insurance company money across the board in this election cycle so far, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

The fundraising data in the CRP analysis is as of July 18, date of the latest Federal Election Commission report by the candidates. McCaskill had raised $22.8 million for her re-election through mid-July, Hawley about $5.3 million.

As for the main claims of McCaskill’s ad, here are the arguments:

McCaskill rightfully notes that Hawley is one of a cluster of Republican attorneys general who joined a lawsuit seeking to declare the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, unconstitutional. That law, which McCaskill has said has flaws, protects people with pre-existing conditions. If Hawley is successful, she says, that protection will go away.

McCaskill is driving that point home in a personal way by talking about her treatment for breast cancer two years ago.

But Hawley, too, uses a personal story in his response. At a Missouri Press Association debate last week, he noted that one of his young sons had been diagnosed with a rare bone condition, a pre-existing condition.

“I will never support taking away health insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions,” Hawley said then. “The question is, are we going to have Obamacare to do it?”

That’s the point, McCaskill said. If Obamacare is repealed, will Republicans like Hawley be able to muster support to add pre-existing protections in the aftermath? Tacitly, Hawley is suggesting he would.

• Previous ad check: TV spot claiming Hawley ‘uncovered’ untested rape kits doesn’t tell whole story

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Hawley vs. McCaskill: Coverage of the 2018 Senate race

Post-Dispatch coverage of the 2018 race for Missouri's U.S. Senate seat.

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Chuck Raasch is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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