Read: The fate of Obamacare’s most popular provision
Leslie S. said that she has special-needs kids and grandkids and “cannot vote for anyone who would take away Medicaid.”(Most of the voters I spoke with asked me not to use their full names.) She supported the Democrats, as did Katlyn M., a woman with a chronic illness that could be considered a preexisting condition.
The Republicans I interviewed, meanwhile, were more focused on the economy and immigration. In fact, several MacArthur voters told me that they had no issue at all with their own health insurance. They want Republicans to stay in power so that President Trump can complete his plans for a border wall and continue to grow the economy.
“Border security is important to me,” said Tim K. “I’m concerned that the asylum process allows for too porous of a border.”
Other Republicans supported MacArthur’s move to repeal Obamacare; they regretted that it had failed. “We’re in favor of Obamacare repeal,” said Jane L. “I had to be on it for a year, and we were paying $1,000 a month for my premium.”
Like some Republicans, some Democrats voted based on party loyalty and had little sense of MacArthur’s health-care amendment when I asked. But others had, in fact, weighed MacArthur’s health-care history and voted for his opponent. “They need to provide comprehensive coverage for everybody,” said Luis M., who voted for MacArthur in a past election but went for Kim this time. “[MacArthur] has sold his soul to the devil.”
The repudiation of the repeal effort is a bit surprising, since only about 9 million Americans are on Obamacare plans, and they would feel changes such as the end of preexisting-condition protections most acutely. After the repeal effort failed, the Trump administration opted to dismantle Obamacare through small, administrative maneuvers, leaving the future of the law largely out of congressional hands. Finally, both Obamacare and the repeal effort were so convoluted that most voters likely forgot what the MacArthur amendment was. In Michigan, for example, voters reelected Representative Fred Upton, a Republican who was also considered vulnerable because of his role in the Obamacare repeal effort.
Read: Who coined ‘Obamacare’?
It’s possible, then, that Kim and other Democrats simply succeeded at branding themselves as more “pro” health care, whatever that might mean. Several of the Kim voters I spoke with didn’t know the specifics of the Republicans’ repeal attempt, but they had the vague sense that Democrats would give them access to health care, while Republicans would not. With the name Obamacare, President Barack Obama tried to convince people that he cares. Republicans, rightly or wrongly, might have come off seeming as if they don’t.
Then again, most people said that health care was just one of the issues that brought them out to vote. An even more electrifying motivator drove some Democrats to the polls: President Donald Trump. “Health care is expensive, and even though you pay for it, you go, and nothing is covered,” said Faith D. But she also wanted a check on the president. “He’s an embarrassment to the United States of America,” she said.