Michigan’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and Republican challenger John James are trading blows over which of them will protect and improve health care.

Peters has accused James of having no specific plan and that he couldn’t be trusted to protect pre-existing condition provisions in the Affordable Care Act. James contends Peters has backed plans that would hurt health care coverage and has  been dishonest about his own health care coverage.

The health care debate continues to simmer in the final days of the campaign as Michigan’s COVID-19 cases have experienced a surge and as the future of the federal Affordable Health Care Act remains in question.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, left, and Republican businessman John James.

In a Wednesday appearance with Rev. Al Sharpton in Detroit, Peters took aim at President Donald Trump who seeking to strike down in court the health care law championed under former President Barack Obama. And he has criticized James for saying in the past that he wanted to “repeal and replace” the law known as “Obamacare.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on the court case after the Nov. 3 election.

“Donald Trump has been pushing this lawsuit through to throw it all out, and you throw it all out what does that mean? It means nearly 4 million people in our state who are now protected if they have pre-existing conditions to get affordable care, they will not be protected,” Peters said. “Seniors already struggling will pay more for prescription drugs.”

On James, Peters added, “and then he says about the Affordable Care Act, he has no plan when the court throws that out.”

In an interview with The Detroit News, James reiterated his stance that he wants to protect coverage for pre-existing conditions and “fix the parts of Obamacare that are broken and keep the parts that aren’t.” He also said he supports a “market-based, patient-centered approach.”

“I think it’s totally disingenuous, hypocritical and dishonest to attack your opponent for wanting to fix a plan that Gary Peters recently admitted is broken, doesn’t work for everyone, has failed small businesses,” said James, a Farmington Hills resident who helps run an auto parts business in Detroit. And he says this weeks before an election after attacking me on it.”

The Republican Army veteran and businessman said his experience with the Affordable Health Care came through his employees at the James Group who had their insurance rates double.

Peters “intentionally lied to the media” about his own health care plan, James said.

Peters’ office told The Detroit News in December 2013 that Peters planned to buy a health care plan on an Affordable Care Act exchange. The campaign provided documentation that Peters was enrolled in an exchange plan in December 2013. 

But in an August 2014 disclosure, the incumbent was listed as enrolled in the health plan open only to Michigan’s former state legislators known as the Michigan Legislative Retirement Health Program. 

“I think it matters when you have leaders exempt themselves from the same plan they’re trying to force everybody else on,” James added.

Peters has declined interview requests to talk further about his own health care plan.

“John James wants to distract Michiganders with false attacks because he doesn’t want them to know he’s going to gut their health care,” Peters spokeswoman Vanessa Valdivia said. “The reality is, after nearly four years of running for office, James, like the president he supports 2000%, still doesn’t have a plan on how he’d protect people with pre-existing conditions.

“Republicans are in court right now trying to dismantle the ACA in its entirety, including protections for the over 1.7 million Michiganders with pre-existing conditions.”

James said that he wants regulatory and tort reform to help reduce health care costs. Lawmakers can increase competition and allow people or firms to purchase health plans in pools across state lines to increase the pools to lower costs, he said.

“I’ve said, we must have a plan that covers people with preexisting conditions and Democrats have been attacking me on lies on that position for the entire campaign,” James said.

lfleming@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2620

Twitter:@leonardnfleming