Analysis: Burgess Owens flip-flops on support for Obamacare repeal

(Kristin Murphy | Deseret News/pool) 4th Congressional District Republican candidate Burgess Owens speaks during a Utah Debate Commission debate against Democratic Utah Congressman Ben McAdams on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in Salt Lake City.

Rep. Ben McAdams and Republican challenger Burgess Owens tangled over the Affordable Care Act during their debate Monday, with McAdams accusing the GOP nominee of flip-flopping on whether or not to repeal the healthcare law. Turns out, that is right. Owens has done an about-face on the issue.

In late September, Owens quietly changed a section on his website reversing his stance that the Affordable Care Act should be repealed.

The original page, you can see an archived copy here, says “Obamacare must be fully repealed so we can take a new approach to the issue.” The new version on the website says “Obamacare no longer needs to be repealed, but changes are necessary in the current healthcare plan.”

That’s a flip-flop. Prior to the September website change, Owens was fairly consistent on the issue. During a televised debate ahead of the GOP primary election, Owens said he would vote to repeal the ACA.

A newly launched “facts” section of his website, which Owens repeatedly referred to during the debate, claims that any thought he wanted to repeal the ACA are “false” despite his previous statements.

Owens is attempting to finesse his reversal by claiming he would work to protect preexisting conditions if he’s elected to Congress. Repealing Obamacare would end protections for preexisting conditions, which is probably why he has changed course on the topic.

On the “facts” section of his website, Owens points to his surviving prostate cancer as the reason “he has continually committed to ALWAYS support health coverage for preexisting conditions.”

The change in his position came shortly before Owens launched an online ad in October touting his “market based” solutions for healthcare in which he said he would vote against any bill that ends protections for preexisting conditions.

It’s not clear why Owens is trying to rewrite his record on whether to scrap the healthcare law. Neither he nor his campaign responded to a request for comment about the change. One could surmise it is a response to attacks from McAdams and other Democratic-groups.

While it is not uncommon for Republicans to want to see the Affordable Care Act repealed, the law has gained some popularity over the years. In 2018, Utahns approved expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act with 59% of the vote, despite objections from lawmakers.

Still, Owens change of tune stands in stark contrast to many in his party. Just days after the November election, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case to strike down the law. It’s supported by the Trump administration and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes among others.