Tammy Baldwin Focuses On Health Care, But Not COVID-19, During Convention Speech

Senator Recalls Affordable Care Act's Passage During Brief Address

Cars are parked in front of a large screen showing Tammy Baldwin
People watch from cars as U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin speaks at the DNC on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Angela Major/WPR

Wisconsin U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin used her three minutes of screen time during the virtual Democratic National Convention on Thursday evening to focus on health care policy — but she only fleetingly mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, Baldwin focused on a popular element of the Affordable Care Act she helped craft and pass in 2010: a ban on insurance companies denying coverage for patients with pre-existing medical conditions.

“We got that done and, yes, it was a big effing deal,” Baldwin said, smiling.

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The remark was a playful reference to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s characterization of the health care bill shortly before former President Barack Obama signed it into law.

Baldwin began her brief remarks by telling a personal story often highlighted during her last senate campaign in 2018 — her family’s struggle to pay a medical bill after being denied insurance coverage. Baldwin suffered from a childhood illness she has described as similar to spinal meningitis, which led to a months-long hospital stay and financial hardship for the grandparents who raised her.

“We all have stories like this, stories about a time when the system was rigged against us, when we were counted out, left out, pushed out,” she said.

Baldwin also lauded an Affordable Care Act provision that allows children to stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26 years old.

The senator argued the upcoming election will determine “what kind of country” Americans want.

“Do we want to be a country where medical bills bury people in debt, or one where health care is affordable for all? Or where tens of thousands of people die from a virus, or where the American dream lives?” she said.

The latter comment was the senator’s only mention of the COVID-19 pandemic during her remarks.

Wisconsin voters first elected Baldwin to the U.S. Senate in 2012. She was the first openly gay senator and Wisconsin’s first female U.S. senator. Prior to that, she served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Wisconsin state Assembly.

She was the final Wisconsin politician to speak at the convention, which was initially expected to bring roughly 50,000 people to Milwaukee before it was shifted to a mostly virtual event because of the pandemic.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore gave brief remarks on Monday and Gov. Tony Evers spoke on Wednesday.