Where Walker and Warnock stand on health care

Abortion has dominated conversations on health care in Georgia’s U.S. Senate race since the nation’s highest court struck down constitutional protection for the procedure in June.

But other health care topics remain pressing concerns for Georgians as well. The COVID-19 pandemic, the closure of a major medical facility in Atlanta, uneven access to health insurance and high prescription drug costs are all on voters’ minds and make an impact on their wallets.

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock makes health care a central theme of his campaign, while his opponent, Herschel Walker, rarely mentions it.

Walker and Warnock on the issues

The AJC is publishing a series of detailed stories about what Republican Herschel Walker and Democrat Raphael Warnock have said and done about key issues in their U.S. Senate race.

- Crime

- Health care

- Economy

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock

Reining in prescription drug prices and expanding Medicaid are top priorities for Warnock, who has framed access to health care as a moral issue.

In Washington, he voted for legislation that reduced drug costs for many elderly people on Medicare. Signed into law by President Joe Biden, the measure for the the first time allows Medicare to negotiate prices with drug manufacturers.

It also limits the amount Medicare Part D recipients must pay for expensive drugs, such as cancer treatments, to $2,000 per year. That change starts in 2025. And it caps insulin prescriptions costs at $35 per month beginning in 2023. Warnock had pushed for the insulin cap to also apply to anyone with private insurance, but Republicans blocked the proposal.

Even before he was elected to the Senate, Warnock had a history of activism when it comes to Medicaid. He was arrested following a sit-in in 2014 at the Georgia Capitol protesting the state’s refusal to take advantage of federal funds to expand the safety-net insurance program that covers poor children and some elderly and disabled adults.

“I was fighting for health care long before I ran for office, and I’ve stood up time and time again saying that Georgia needs to expand Medicaid,” he told reporters at a recent campaign stop at Georgia Tech.

Warnock supports abortion access in the state, calling himself a “pro-choice pastor.” He has not specified whether he would back any limits on the procedure.

Addressing maternal mortality, he succeeded in getting legislation approved that would create a panel to investigate best medical practices for at-risk pregnant women.

Warnock has also said he opposes cuts to entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

Republican nominee Herschel Walker

When Walker mentions health care, it is often in the context of costs.

Walker has repeatedly criticized Warnock for backing legislation capping prescription drug prices, contending the sweeping bill, which also includes climate provisions, contains too much wasteful spending.

“This is a man who voted for spending blowouts. He voted for spending — it’s caused runaway inflation,” Walker said Monday night at a rally in Cumming.

But the Republican has said very little about what he would support or sponsor. His campaign has not responded to multiple requests seeking details about various health care initiatives.

And his claims about spending were undercut by the Congressional Budget Office, which said the law would reduce the deficit, in part, because of the money it will save the federal government by allowing drug negotiations.

Walker has said he opposes expanding Medicaid to all poor adults in Georgia. Asked about it at an event earlier this year, Walker said the program “continues to bankrupt us.”

“Right now, Medicaid has not been good,” Walker said.

Early in the campaign, Walker said he opposed abortion even in cases of rape and incest or when the life of the mother is at stake. But he has softened that stance slightly. His campaign said he backs a national proposal by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks. During an October debate with Warnock, Walker said he supports Georgia’s law, which blocks most abortions after six weeks, because it had been passed by state legislators and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp

“What the people of Georgia stand for, I’m gonna stand with them,” he said.

Credit: Greg Nash/The Hill

Credit: Greg Nash/The Hill

During that same debate, Walker said he believed in reducing insulin costs but added that people on the drug need to “eat right.”

“Unless you’re eating right, insulin is doing you no good,” he said.

Warnock has assailed that remark as uninformed.

“Why doesn’t he know that you can eat right and work out and still have diabetes?” Warnock asked Sunday at a rally in Atlanta. Warnock has also attacked Walker’s statement suggesting most people who work have health insurance.

Walker has publicly acknowledged his struggles with mental health and traveled the country giving speeches aimed at removing the stigma surrounding mental illness. He has said he would advocate for mental health awareness in the Senate but has not specified how he would do so.

Walker’s campaign did not respond when asked whether he supported cuts or changes to entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. He has campaigned frequently with U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, a Florida Republican who has suggested federal laws should sunset after five years. Scott has said his goal is not to cut Medicare, but critics have suggested the program would need to be reauthorized under Scott’s blueprint, allowing for the possibility of changes.