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Suburban Atlanta’s would-be representatives talk health care

US Capitol by Mike Procario/ CC BY-ND 2.0 US Capitol by Mike Procario/ CC BY-ND 2.0

By Maggie Lee

The world is in the middle of a pandemic. The constitutionality of part of the Affordable Care Act is in the U.S. Supreme Court next month.

So it’s probably no wonder that the congressional candidates for metro Atlanta’s northern suburbs spent a lot of time on health care at Tuesday debates.

First take the northwest side, where incumbent Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath is in a rematch with the woman she replaced in the 6th District, Republican former Rep. Karen Handel.

Karen Handel and Lucy McBath (Photos via campaigns)

Karen Handel and Lucy McBath (Photos via campaigns)

McBath, in step with the rest of the Democratic Party, said she’s concerned about U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett and thinks the would-be justice may want to dismantle the ACA, known also as Obamacare.

“I promise to continue to fight to make sure that health care is accessible to each and every one,” McBath said. “It is not a privilege. That is your right as an American.”

Handel leaned in more toward Georgia-specific policies: like more federal cash for Medicaid — in the form of block grants — that Georgia could spend on its own terms.

There are gaps in health care, Handel said.

“We need standalone legislation to protect [insurance coverage of people who have] pre-existing conditions.

But she said the marketplace exchange, where people who don’t get health insurance elsewhere can buy subsidized plans, is not offering as much choice as the district needs.

Over on the other side of metro Atlanta in the 7th District, Republican congressional candidate Rich McCormick also called for insurance protections for folks who have pre-existing conditions. And he called the U.S. health system the best and most robust in the world, but said that it does need to be more affordable.

Carolyn Bordeaux and Rich McCormick (Photos via campaigns)

Carolyn Bordeaux and Rich McCormick (Photos via campaigns)

McCormick, an emergency department physician, said that everyone who shows up at his ED gets the same treatment. But he struck a different tone from Handel.

“If you have employment, you have good health care, and if you don’t have employment, we have a plan for that too,” McCormick said.

Throughout the debate, he emphasized his support for small government in general and skepticism of Washington, D.C.

Democrat Carolyn Bordeaux said the reason she got into the race is because everybody needs affordable, quality health care. She said people don’t need to end up in the ER because they skipped regular check-ups that can lead to worse conditions.

“It is morally wrong, it is fiscally irresponsible,” Bordeaux said.

She said people in the district pay “extortionary” rates for health care and very high rates for prescription drugs, and those things have to be addressed.

Both races are of great interest to the national Republican and Democratic parties because of how much they may be changing compared to earlier this century. Northwest metro Atlanta was conservative enough to have produced Newt Gingrich, and northeast metro wasn’t too far behind in redness.

But besides McBath’s 2018 victory, Bordeaux’ loss the same year was close — she came within 433 votes of beating an incumbent. Both Cobb and Gwinnett voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016. So, depending on your party, there’s either fear or rejoicing that sharing a party with the polarizing president might not be the road to success this year.


The debates are hosted by the Atlanta Press Club and GPB. Check the upcoming schedule here and past videos here.

Maggie Lee

Maggie Lee is a freelance reporter who's been covering Georgia and metro Atlanta government and politics since 2008.


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