The issue of healthcare and the future of the Affordable Care Act were main topics during a debate between two candidates for Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District.
The debate, held by Arkansas PBS, between incumbent congressman French Hill (R), and Arkansas state senator Joyce Elliott (D), ranged in discussion between police funding, preparation for another pandemic and working across the aisle in bipartisanship.
When answering a question concerning the future of healthcare, Elliott said she believes Congress should work towards improving the Affordable Care Act, or ACA.
"For people who already have great health insurance, leave them alone. But it should not be the cast that we have the president of the United States, a congressman, a state senator and we have good healthcare and other people do not," Elliott said.
Elliott also spoke on Hill’s track record of either voting to repeal or reduce the ACA, including his yes vote to repeal the individual mandate in 2017 as a part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs act saying "this is not the way that we make a healthier place."
In response, Hill says House Republicans were attempting to lower costs for healthcare for Americans and said he supports covering Americans with pre-existing conditions.
"Republicans support preexisting conditions, unconditionally and with a plan, a funded plan that was in our bill. We support kids staying on their parents’ plan through [age] 26. That’s not a controversial point at all. What we were trying to do is lower costs for health care, whether you’re a sole proprietor, whether you’re on the exchanges or whether you’re in a small business," Hill said
Elliott called Hill’s claim that House republicans have a plan that is going to be better and less costly "just not true."
Hill, when asked what the way forward is for the county’s tax system to become more equitable, Hill spoke on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which he voted for.
"It was important to our small businesses. It allowed us to move business home from offshore because it stopped the double taxation of earnings on 50% of America’s businesses that earn money outside the U.S," Hill said.
Hill also spoke against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s plan to raise taxes, a plan he said Elliott is also for. Elliott also spoke on the 2017 tax cut, saying it did not aid every family in Arkansas.
"The 2017 tax cut was an absolute giveaway to the richest people in this county and it created a permanent tax increase for the middle class." Elliott said.
Elliott also spoke on the need for Congress to focus on creating a more equitable tax system, calling the current system "very much out of line."
What the response to the next possible pandemic should be was another topic during the debate.
Hill proposed having better coordination between the Federal Emergency Management Agency and states along with changes to how the Food and Drug Administration approves therapeutic and vaccines as ways to prepare for the next pandemic. Elliott focused on transparency, saying people should know where funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or CARES, Act are going.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Arkansas, along with 20 other states, received the smallest amount of CARES Act funding, an amount of $1.25 billion.
Both candidates found some common ground when it came to topics such as police funding and broadband access to the state.
Both Elliott and Hill spoke against defunding the police, which is the process of reallocating funds from police departments to other programs, with Elliott saying she supports the building up of community policing.
"What that means is, that the people in the community will know who the police officers are and the police officers will know them and we sit down together and determine what’s the best way forward for the safety in our community. In fact, then we could probably just have safety officers because we’re all working together," Elliott said.
Elliott also stated while she didn’t support it as a mandate, she also encourages officers to live where they police.
Hill said that some of the "common sense" elements of police reform should be resolved.
"If we have bad cops out there, we ought to get them decertified and out of the police forces where they’re not passed around from one department to another," Hill said.
Hill spoke on his support of Sen. Tim Scott’s (R) police reform bill, The Justice Act, and claimed the bill would eliminate chokeholds. However, according to NPR, Democrats say the bill encourages the ending of policies like chokeholds and no-knock warrants, but does not explicitly ban them.
On the topic of broadband access, both Hill and Elliott stressed the need for accessible broadband, especially during the middle of the pandemic.
Hill said changes in both telehealth and education due to COVID-19 have emphasized the need for better broadband.
"I think the governor estimates that about 200,000 Arkansans don’t have access at all, but that ignores the Arkansans that have low speed access or cannot afford access. So to me, broadband is the next rural electrification challenge for the U.S. government to roll out in partnership with the states," Hill said.
Elliott said adequate internet access is critical for education.
"If we’re going to educate our kids, if they’re going to be technologically savvy, we need to make sure we have the type of broadband and make sure we have the types of devices in our schools so that our kids can learn how to compete on the world stage. And the key to that is broadband service," Elliott said.
You can watch the full debate here.