Wealthy real estate developer and banker Eric Hovde is reportedly seriously considering a 2024 challenge to Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin. When he ran unsuccessfully for the same Senate seat in 2012, Hovde spent much of his time calling for a total repeal of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
National Republicans, still without a viable candidate for the race, have been trying to recruit Hovde to run, even though he reportedly owns a multimillion dollar home in Laguna Beach, California, in addition to his Madison, Wisconsin, home and spends a sizable chunk of his time there.
Eleven years ago, Hovde spent more than $5.6 million of his own money in an effort to win the GOP nomination for the same Senate seat. He lost 34%-31% to former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson; Baldwin defeated Thompson in the general election 52%-46%.
In a page on his 2012 campaign page on Obamacare, Hovde said, “ObamaCare isn’t just a radical assault on our health care system, it’s an assault on our entire economy.” He predicted that the law would cost 20 million Americans their health insurance coverage, undermine consumer freedom, and bankrupt the nation.
“Simply put, our nation cannot afford President Obama and Congresswoman Baldwin’s multi-trillion dollar government takeover of health care,” he warned.
In a campaign video, Hovde proposed repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a plan that would get the government out of health care entirely, embracing Wisconsin Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s so-called premium support voucher plan, which would have ended Medicare and provided some financial aid to those who could not afford health insurance policies to buy private insurance or directly pay for health products and care.
“I believe we need to move to a free-market approach and allow people to be their own consumers of their health care needs,” Hovde told viewers. “We need to repeal and replace Obamacare in its entirety and move in a 180-degree different direction, where people take on their own personal responsibility and use a free-market approach to solving our health care crisis.”
Hovde did not immediately respond to questions for this story about his current views on health care policy.
Contrary to his claims, the Affordable Care Act was not a government takeover of health care; PolitiFact called such claims the 2010 “Lie of the Year.”
The law’s provisions guaranteed that hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites would no longer face discrimination by insurance companies for preexisting medical conditions like diabetes, addiction, heart disease, or cancer, or even for being a woman. They required insurers to fully cover preventive care, such as annual checkups, for all members. They allowed young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance plans. They lowered overall health care costs for consumers and the government by trillions of dollars over the law’s first decade. They made it possible for 212,209 individuals in Wisconsin to obtain affordable health insurance plans through the marketplace in 2022.
In an August 2012 debate, Hovde made it clear that he didn’t support any of this. Asked specifically if there were any parts of the law he supported, such as the protections for preexisting conditions or the rules allowing people to stay on their family’s plan until age 26, he answered: “No. I believe that the problem with our health care sector over the last 30 years has been ever-increasing government involvement.”
In a July 2012 interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s editorial board, Hovde warned that letting twentysomethings get insurance through their families would slow their maturity. “I understand it but I also am concerned that we continue to extend, how do you say this, you continue to extend a variation of childhood far too long,” he said.
Baldwin’s 2024 reelection campaign site touts her work on the law: “Tammy is leading the charge for affordable health care for all Wisconsinites. She worked to defeat the partisan health care repeal efforts and championed the reforms to protect people with pre-existing conditions and allow kids to stay on their parents’ plans until 26.”
Obamacare was initially unpopular with voters, but polls show that as Americans got to see the law implemented, they grew to like it. A May 2023 Kaiser Family Foundation survey found 59% of American adults now have a favorable opinion of the law, while 40% have an unfavorable view.
“Eric Hovde has been clear: He wants to fully repeal the ACA, including protecting coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. If Hovde had his way, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites would lose access to the affordable, life-saving health care coverage they need,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin spokesperson Arik Wolk said in an email. “Meanwhile, Tammy Baldwin has spent years fighting to protect health care coverage for Wisconsinites, championing the measure that lets children stay on their parents’ health insurance until they’re 26.”