Senate candidate Sullivan shows fundamental lack of understanding of health care

Full disclosure: I’ve been a longtime supporter of ObamaCare, if nothing else because of my own personal experience with trying to get healthcare as a self-employed female with a pre-existing condition. Until the healthcare law was passed, I was one of millions of Americans who were caught in the outlandishly expensive and capricious mess of high risk health insurance pools, ones whose monthly premiums were twice my mortgage, and didn’t cover anything anyway.

In other words, I’m a little biased. But then again, so might be roughly 15,000 Alaskans, many of whom have affordable health insurance for the first time in their lives under the Affordable Care Act.

Senate candidate Dan Sullivan has run a pretty decent campaign so far. His philosophy has, by and large, gelled nicely with a large hunk of the electorate. And he has lived a life, apparently, that’s been able to hold up to scrutiny. Mostly, he hasn’t made a huge gaffe, which is pretty impressive considering that this is his first time running for office, ever.

Gaffes often happen, however, when politicians feel that they’re on solid ground and are feeling comfortable. In an interview with the ADN on Wednesday, Dan Sullivan talked about health care and about his plan for repealing ObamaCare, which has been one of his main platforms since he began campaigning. Apparently, he felt comfortable with the subject. Perhaps too comfortable. What he ended up doing was being very comfortable in showing how little he appears to know about the subject.

You’d think that since he’s spent so much time and effort talking about the law—and reading it, so he said–that he might have taken the time to learn why the mammoth overhaul of the healthcare system came about in the first place, and why people had been clamoring and literally dying for change.

But he doesn’t appear interested. He doesn’t even known how much he, a vet, pays in monthly premiums. He doesn’t seem to know anything about high risk pools. He talks about tort reform being a panacea, but he, a state’s rights guy, appears not to be aware that most states have enacted tort reform. Alaska signed significant tort reform into law in 1997. It hasn’t done much good.

Sullivan says that one solution would be to allow states to buy insurance across state lines. Once again, had he or his campaign done a quick google search, he would know that individual states control their own insurance markets. They get to decide, not the federal government, if they want to accept out-of-state insurance companies into their market. As of now, five states have laws that allow for such cross-border exchanges. It hasn’t done them much good.

But most galling was that Sullivan wasn’t even aware that women were routinely charged more than men for health insurance, just because they are women.

How he could have missed that fact in the many debates on the subject is beyond me, and will likely be beyond many women.

Displaying his ignorance—and apparent disinterest– about health care in this country, and the thousands of Alaskans whose very lives depend, on it might not officially qualify in the minds of many Alaskans as a “gaffe.”

But it should.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


28 thoughts on “Senate candidate Sullivan shows fundamental lack of understanding of health care

  1. Gregory Gusse

    the fact, overlooked by everyone, is the comingling of the ideas of health care and insurance. The two are not synonymous except in such whacky notions as ACA. We never needed government subsidized insurance, we like most of all the rest of humans on this planet deserve and need universal healthcare.

    Your rude commenters who liken preexisting health conditions to floodplain housing or lazy drivers probably support this misogynist and fish hater to boot!

  2. Joe Barnard

    Obamacare just exposes Sullivan as a one percenter like Mittens Romney or Tredwell. Why would he know about the healthcare choices for the masses if he’s never had to look into it for himself?

  3. Lensky

    Amanda. I speak for many of your readers when I say it is dismaying to see you so self-serving as to yearn for health care you can afford. If you want to be a real Alaskan your chief concern should be helping businesses pull as much money out of Alaska as possible while supporting politicians who wish to shrink government so it will send less money in.

  4. Amanda Post author

    I appreciate your views @Arctic. That said, it’s all for naught unless we’re around and healthy enough to experience it, no?

  5. Arctic Urbanophile

    I appreciate your analysis and personal touch in this article. I somewhat ironically remain opposed to the ACA despite being on the exchange for the better part of a year. I can appreciate the benefits the ACA brings to the under served and marginalized portions of the population–especially in terms of the relativity cost effective Medicade expansion and emphasis on preventative care. My experience on the exchange was not terrible. It was difficult to navigate, but I didn’t really experience any of the horrible glitches. Going on the exchange allowed me to work as a private contractor and cut my hours from 45 a week to 38 and I appreciated having that flexibly. My problems with the ACA stem less from the practical merits and more from principle. I disagree with how the bill was rammed though congress and I believe the individual mandate is ultimately unconstitutional. While I bileve access to affordable healthcare is important, I also don’t believe in subsidizing irresponsible behavior. There are definite benefits in terms of uninsured numbers and drop in expensive emergency room visits, however, I am very much the type of person who thinks “the ends justify the means” mentality is a slippery slope and threatens other constitutional freedoms. In this election, health care has quite honestly faded as an important issue to me as a voter. I truly worry about the future of the state if senator Reid continues to block access to Alaska’s natural resources. Natural resources are the life blood of the state for better or worse. We can debate the merits of diversifying the economy all we want, but in the near term natural resources remain the state’s best economic driver–meaning we need offshore revenue sharing, access to oil on federal lands, and a less militant EPA. Health care is defiantly an issue, but reversing oil decline and providing robust economic opportunity to Alaskans is the driving issue of 214.

  6. Garand Fellow

    Ms. Coyne,

    I am very sorry but Brad is correct according to my view. When the condition is pre-existing (so-called) then what we call coverage is no more insurance than is coverage purchased for a house that is already burning. There is no actuarial arithmetic to apply to an event that has already occurred. If it is pre-existing it is not insurance but it might be a device to avoid the cost personally.

    But I try to be philosophical about ObamaCare. I know a fellow who has managed a tiny business for about 30 years; 15 to 20 employees, through a succession of ownerships and other changes at the business. For all that time he has almost always worked 7 days a week even though he has never owned the business. Health insurance was a problem for the business and expensive for him personally (although he is paid well through commissions on big-ticket items). Now, so far as he can see ObamaCare has solved that problem. This fellow can see that we are living on borrowed time and money borrowed from China, and that entitlement promises to disabled vets, Social Security enrollees and others cannot be met unless dollars become worth even less (and lose more buying power). But his attitude is that the government gives government employees, welfare recipients, and many others (I will say inner city people but he uses another term) subsidized health care so he and his family, and those employees deserve their share as private sector workers who pay taxes. He says when the inner city people appear at their doorstep after it all breaks down, he and his employees have lots of ammunition. If needs be, and after all the deer are shot, they can come up with recipes for cooking those inner city people I suppose. Thanks to petroleum money, we in Alaska have been insulated from many Lower 48 realities.

  7. Brad

    Amanda, you have asked the public to pay for your known, future medical payments therefore it is not insurance it is a prepayment. You cannot insure known outcomes.

    Should bad drivers, lazy careless homeowners pay the same rate as good safe drivers and thoughtful, proactive homeowners? HELL NO! Why should health insurance be any different? Smokers, drinkers, people who do not exercise, over eat, eat bad diets, and drink soda pay the same premiums as healthy people which is the same as drunks paying the same rates as safe drivers.

    Sorry about your health issues, insurance is not the right solution for your health problems. Just as the folks that live in flood planes and have their homes flood every couple years we have a special federal program for them.

    That is probably a far better solution the screwing up health insurance for the other 80 percent of people.

  8. Katmai fan

    No out of state insurers in Alaska?

    Premera – Mountlake Terrace WA
    Moda – Portland OR
    Aetna – Hartford CT
    Time – Milwaukee WI
    Celtic – Chicago IL

  9. Katmai fan

    Where’s the outrage that women have cheaper auto and life insurance? That’s discrimination too!

  10. Joeblow

    Me, I’m waiting for someone to show me how Obamacare saves anyone any money. When do I get my $2,500 Obama promised?

  11. Lynn Willis

    Thank you for your honesty Amanda. I heard that the number one cause of personal bankruptcy in America is health bills that cannot be paid. That is what awaits too many Americans. Right now, warts and all, we have a solution for many that had no solution before.
    What I don’t want to hear is elected state officials, who are provided government funded health benefits, be so callus and so indifferent toward their fellow Alaskans by saying something as stupid as “Where in the US Constitution are you guaranteed health insurance? “.
    I am waiting for the Governor or first legislator to give up their government funded health insurance to take advantage of their local neighborhood clinic staffed by pro-bono physicians.

  12. Mae

    I hear ha about those pre existing conditions and what it used to cost to get coverage, while said coverage was crap. Oh I hear ya.

    L48 Dan is just singing the same anti Obama healthcare mantra over and over again. It reeks of no substance and no clue of real world situations. But if you vote for him, he’ll fight to block it, stop it and/or trash it. Guaranteed !!!
    End of story.

    And that is about all there is to L48 Dan.

  13. Alaska Cod Piece

    Talking POints Dan showed the same lack of knowledge and indifference when asked his position on the Violence Against Women Act. For a man with three daughters, he sure is out of touch with facts to back up his “non” positions.

  14. Pete Daltry

    Uh, voting for Sullivan IS a vote against Alaska, slogan chanters. How many homes does Dan own outside of Alaska? Does he even rent a place here? His wife’s parents house doesn’t count. She wants back to their east coast mansion quick! Begich still has the same house in East Anchorage that he had as assemblyman.
    Voting for Sullivan is a vote to legalize slavery so large corporations can make bigger profits, not for jobs or cheaper food or cheaper fuels. Read the facts, not the Propaganda. Amanda is talking about what the real world is like, not a wish in one hand, Sullivan in the other. pebble Mine is not ‘energy jobs’

  15. Merriam-Webster

    Someone who has the ability to use the word “myopic,” but fails to understand that healthcare IS a critical issue in this race, is a special breed of spin-doctoring, knuckle-dragging troglodyte.

  16. Knit Pickers Society, Alaska Chapter Scribe

    We love knit picking articles that focus on some mundane facts that take the campaign debate to some specific state of myopic thought. Those who look at the broader scope and issues of the campaign get lost in what’s important where we prefer to drown in the tedious.

  17. Eleanor

    Sullivan never said that he finished first in his class at Harvard. Clearly, health care isn’t a subject that he has broad familiarity; however, talk about energy development, constitutional rights, economic development and a whole host of other issues and you’ll find Dan Sullivan to be extremely articulate.
    Ounce for ounce, pound for pound, you can bet there is significant greater intellectual depth than there is with Alaska’s junior senator.
    More importantly, Sullivan will never submit to being Harry Reid’s lap dog or carrying about Pbama’s success more than Alaska’s. Remember, this election is a referendum on Obama. A vote for Begich is a vote for Obama. A vote for Begich is a vote against Alaska.

  18. joeblow

    Women get charged more for insurance because they have more health issues and they live longer. That’s not discrimination, that’s math.

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