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Tony Evers, Scott Walker

State Superintendent Tony Evers and Gov. Scott Walker are tussling over the issue of health care protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

Gov. Scott Walker pledged Friday to ensure those with pre-existing conditions would be covered in Wisconsin if the Affordable Care Act were repealed — a key provision of the law known as Obamacare that he has long opposed.

“If something were to change, Scott Walker would call a special session in a heartbeat and get it passed,” Walker’s campaign spokesman, Brian Reisinger, said Friday after Walker’s Republican running mate and Democratic opponent traded jabs over the issue.

Earlier in the day state Superintendent Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, both cancer survivors, clashed over protections for people like them with pre-existing conditions.

Kleefisch is featured in a new television ad in which she says as long as she and Walker are in office, people with pre-existing conditions will be guaranteed health insurance.

That protection is extended under former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which Walker has been working for years to repeal. He signed off on Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel joining a multistate lawsuit this year that seeks to undo the law and the pre-existing conditions protection.

But Walker this year also called for the Legislature to pass a state law guaranteeing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. The bill did not pass.

As of 2015, the state had about 852,000 adults with pre-existing conditions that could have prevented them from getting insurance before the health law, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Walker has no credibility on the issue because of his long opposition to the federal law, Evers, his Democratic challenger in the upcoming election, said in a statement.

“Election-year promises won’t cover up Walker’s career of working to sabotage Wisconsinites’ health care and take us back to the days when insurance companies could deny you coverage if you got sick,” Evers said. “He simply has no credibility on this issue, and Wisconsinites have no reason to believe he’d change with another term.”

The Kleefisch ad follows one from a group aligned with the Democratic Governors Association that also featured a woman fighting cancer. In that spot, the woman claims that Walker doesn’t care about families like hers because he’s fought to repeal the health care law and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

In her ad, Kleefisch said she was “shocked” that Evers and his allies would argue Walker wants to end the protections.

“Today in Wisconsin, people with pre-existing conditions are already covered,” Kleefisch said, without noting that they are covered only because of the national law Walker opposes. “And as long as Scott and I are in office, they always will be.”

Evers, 66, is a survivor of esophageal cancer, which doctors told him he was cured of in 2012 after extensive surgery in 2008 requiring removal of his esophagus and part of his stomach. It’s a cancer that few people survive and that Evers has said he thought would kill him.

Kleefisch, 43, was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 35 in 2010, during a five-way primary for lieutenant governor. She had surgery to remove the tumor and part of her colon and underwent chemotherapy treatments during the protests at the state Capitol in 2011 over Walker’s proposal known as Act 10 that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers.

This latest ad isn’t the first Kleefisch has run featuring her cancer diagnosis. In a 2010 spot, during Walker’s first run for office, Kleefisch falsely claimed the Democratic candidate, Tom Barrett, supported a government takeover of health care.

State Journal reporter David Wahlberg contributed to this report.

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