Cruz appeared with Bernie Sanders at the debate to face off on the future of Obamacare. The town hall featured questions about healthcare coverage from audience members, including one woman suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, which is a chronic illness.
While answering her question, the Texas senator congratulated her not once, but twice.
“Thank you for sharing your story and congratulations on dealing with MS,” Cruz said. “It’s a terrible disease and congratulations on your struggles dealing with it.”
The awkward exchange prompted social media to explode.
“I don’t know a single person with a chronic illness who wants to be congratulated for living with it,” wrote user Sarah Jones.
“Congratulations Ted Cruz on your struggle with being a human being,” tweeted another user.
The town hall debate moderated by CNN’s Jake Tapper and Dana Bash discussed the ongoing battle between the Republicans and Democrats on healthcare. At times, the debate got heated as Sanders defended Obamacare, while Cruz called for it to be repealed and replaced.
Ted Cruz Congratulated a Woman With MS. Her Reaction: ‘What Did He Just Say?’
A Maryland woman who suffers from multiple sclerosis said it was “unnerving” that Sen. Ted Cruz congratulated her for "dealing" with the disabling disease during Tuesday night’s Obamacare debate.
Carol Hardaway was among the participants who posed health care questions to Cruz and Sen. Bernie Sanders at a Washington, D.C. town hall forum hosted by CNN. The 63-year-old substitute teacher directly asked Cruz whether she would keep her Medicaid coverage after President Donald Trump’s threatened repeal of the Affordable Care Act—a law she said helps her pay for treatment and medications for M.S.
Before calling Medicaid a “profoundly troubled program,” Cruz said: “Carol, thank you for sharing your story, and congratulations on dealing with M.S. It's a terrible disease, and congratulations on your struggles dealing with it.”
Hardaway told TIME on Wednesday that the odd wording didn’t “sink in” until she left the venue. “When I got home, I was like, ‘What? He’s congratulating me? What did he just say?' And I replayed it again, and I said, ‘No, he didn’t,’” she said. “It was a little bit unnerving to be honest.”
“I didn’t wake up one morning and say, ‘Oh, I think I would like to have M.S.,” she added.
Hardaway was diagnosed with M.S. nearly 30 years ago and said the incurable disease that disrupts the nerves has affected her ability to walk, talk and see. “You feel as though you just can’t move anymore,” she said.
Hardaway fell into the high-risk pool among health insurance seekers, which meant she had to pay exorbitant costs for medication and deductibles until she enrolled in Obamacare. “If they repeal Obamacare, I’m done,” she said. “I don’t know what I would do because the medications that I’ve been able to access have literally given me back a quality of life.”
Hardaway said a producer for the show reached out to her to participate in the debate. She agreed to show how the health care law has changed her life. “I feel like somebody has to put a face to what I’ve been going through,” she said. “For me, it’s personal because the system is working for me.”
A Cruz spokesperson released a statement on the exchange on Wednesday. “As he did with every questioner last evening, Sen. Cruz’s goal was to identify with their battles, and to express his concern for and understanding of the immense difficulties they have had to overcome and in many cases may still be overcoming," the statement said.
Hardaway said she was more upset that Cruz did not give her a direct answer on her Medicaid question than that he congratulated her. But she still found his words surprising.
“Support is different than a ‘congratulations.’ ‘Oh, you’re doing so well. I’m proud of you.’ That’s different than ‘congratulations.’ Congratulations is something you get when you graduate from college,” she said. “And ‘you’re doing so well’ means for me that I’m managing it.""I’m not letting it take over my life," she added. "I have M.S., M.S. doesn’t have me. I live by that."
Good Guy Ted Cruz Congratulated a Woman on Having Multiple Sclerosis
When you're hell-bent on stripping people of their healthcare, things can get awkward. Take last night, for example. At a CNN debate on healthcare between ideological antitheses Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz, a woman with multiple sclerosis asked Cruz to promise her that she would not lose the Medicaid she depends on—and qualified for through Obamacare's Medicaid expansion—when Republicans repeal the law.
Congratulations on having a debilitating chronic condition? "Congratulations on your struggles"? This is what a space alien would say. Regardless of why he considers suffering an inherent good (for other people, not him or his family—Cruz has gold-plated healthcare paid for by taxpayers), the Texas senator revealed one thing for sure: He has no realistic interest in relieving said suffering.
Cruz went on to explain that Medicaid simply must be done away with. "Medicaid is a profoundly troubled program," he said, "And so it may be working well with you, but I'll tell you nationally, the health outcomes under Medicaid are really poor." PolitiFact rates this claim false, just as it did when Cruz made it in 2013:
Medicaid patients tend to have worse medical outcomes than those with private insurance, but that's because they tend to be sicker and wait until the last minute for care. We found several studies that show Medicaid actually improves access and quality of life for many patients — or at least doesn't hurt them.