Have an illness or a sick baby at home? Vote wisely

Let’s officially christen this the biggest issue in this election season: Protecting people with conditions like cancer or diabetes from losing health coverage, or paying through the nose to get it.

We’re talking about roughly 1 out of every 2 people in New Jersey, more than 3.8 million in a state of 9 million, who has a condition like heart disease, high blood pressure or arthritis.

You fall into this category even if you survived cancer that is long gone, or have a baby with a heart defect or low birth weight.

One 1 of 4 kids has a condition like this.

And everybody gets sick eventually. If you fear you might, or that someone you love will, know that voting for Republicans on Nov. 6 will potentially leave you or that person without insurance, or bankrupt. Or both.

Because there is a strict party divide on this. Democrats down the line in New Jersey, including U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and congressional candidates Andy Kim, Mikie Sherrill, Tom Malinowski and Josh Welle, would protect these people from discrimination by insurers, a key feature of Obamacare. Republicans would not.

Their claims to the contrary have been debunked repeatedly, by everyone from PolitiFact to the American Medical Association to nonpartisan analysts at the Congressional Budget Office — whose chief was picked by Republicans — and countless health experts.

Understand why. Before the Affordable Care Act, insurers routinely discriminated against people with these conditions, jacking up their premiums or flatly refusing them coverage. Now, under Obamacare, they cannot be denied coverage or charged exorbitant rates. But Republicans tried to remove that protection last year when they sought to repeal Obamacare, and failed by a single vote, cast by U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. They’ve vowed to try again.

U.S. Reps. Leonard Lance and Chris Smith both note that they ultimately voted against last year’s repeal, in part because of its lack of protection for people with pre-existing conditions. But they’ve both been enemies of Obamacare, and if elected, would fortify a Republican majority that’s made it clear it will keep trying to dismantle the law.

The other Republicans seeking election in New Jersey, like U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur, congressional candidate Jay Webber and U.S. Senate candidate Bob Hugin, also claim they want to protect people with pre-existing conditions. But it’s just not true.

Here’s the core fraud behind this: All the Republican plans, including MacArthur’s, guarantee that insurers must sell you a policy. But they do nothing about the price, unleashing insurers on you. They could charge so much that you lose your house.

Even if you’re currently covered through your employer, you’ll face the same gouging if you lose your job, and with it, your health insurance. All this is why patient advocacy groups like the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, JDRF (for diabetes) and the nonprofit organization representing retired Americans, AARP, spoke out strongly against what Republicans are trying to do.

The American Medical Association said it would do “serious harm to patients.” Perhaps that’s why the campaign websites for MacArthur and other GOPers make virtually no mention of repealing Obamacare or his infamous amendment. Instead, MacArthur’s website actually claims that he “opposed his own party’s efforts at a speedy Obamacare repeal,” a bald-faced lie.

In fact, it was MacArthur who spearheaded his party’s effort to hasten the repeal of Obamacare last year, and gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Believe these claims at your peril.

No matter where you fall ideologically, from conservative to liberal, electing Republicans to Congress will fortify their attack on protections for the people you love against insurance companies, when they are unlucky enough to get sick.