How Health Care Will Determine the Midterms

After the economy, a top political issue

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Six months to the day after President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats passed health care reform, the policy is returning to the political main stage. Obama and Democrats are seeking to campaign on the sweeping and popular legislation, Republicans are running against it as too costly and are attempting to channel Tea Party challenges to the law's legality. Republicans have long promised to repeal health care reform, several key provisions of which go into effect today. Here's the political battle and what it means the midterms as well as health care.

  • Key Reforms Kick in Today The New York Times' Kevin Sack writes, "Sometimes lost in the partisan clamor about the new health care law is the profound relief it is expected to bring to hundreds of thousands of Americans who have been stricken first by disease and then by a Darwinian insurance system." Some big examples: "Starting now, insurance companies will no longer be permitted to exclude children because of pre-existing health conditions, which the White House said could enable 72,000 uninsured to gain coverage. Insurers also will be prohibited from imposing lifetime limits on benefits. The law will now forbid insurers to drop sick and costly customers after discovering technical mistakes on applications. It requires that they offer coverage to children under 26 on their parents' policies."

  • So Where's the Political Support? The San Francisco Chronicle editorial board calls this "a lonely moment, with President Obama nearly alone touting the starting point as polls show that the country isn't sold on the package. The new provisions aren't striking, nor will large groups feel the effects. The slow rollout will take until 2014 to finish, unless Republicans tear it apart and voters allow them to do so. The country remains unconvinced of the overhaul's merits, believing instead that the package will impose huge costs and limit options. It's a mistaken view fed by incessant negative campaigning, but the White House hasn't made headway in correcting mistaken views and blunting Republican attacks."
  • Dems Try Tying Health Care to Economy  The Washington Post's N.C. Aizenman and Anne Kornblut write, "With polls showing the public ambivalent about the law, and Democrats in some districts taking a beating for supporting it, many prefer to keep the focus on jobs and other economic issues. The president, too, seemed keen to counter the belief of some that health care distracted him from what many voters view as the most pressing concern: turning around the economy. ... But he argued that addressing the high cost and limited accessibility of health care was just as fundamental to the nation's fiscal health."
  • GOP Running Against Health Care  The New York Times' David Herszenhorn reports that the new Republican "Pledge to America" includes a promise to "repeal of the newly enacted health care law." One of their five planks for what they foresee to be a Congressional majority is a "plan to repeal and replace the government takeover of health care." It's unclear how exactly they would implement this and the plan is likely mostly about looking tough on a semi-popular bill.
  • Why This Is a Terrible Idea The Washington Post's Ezra Klein warns the GOP plan would "take health-care insurance away from tens of millions of people." This would "would increase the deficit by more than $100 billion over the next 10 years, and many trillions of dollars more after that" and directly contradicts the stated top GOP priority of reducing the deficit.
  • GOP Will Win 2010 Argument on Health Care The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder appraises, "Fortunately for Republicans, once popular policies become unpopular when the Democratic Party embraces them these days, and between now and the election, there isn't likely to be a surge in enthusiasm among voters who like health care. The 2010 midterms are a president's first, they're happening amid the deepest recession since the Great Depression, they're happening after several cycles where the Democrats did unusually well in Republican areas, and the Democratic coalition is distinctly not built for the type of 'work in progress' affirmations or rejections that two-year Congressional terms are designed to solicit."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.