“Obamacare” could help Democrats in 2012
Republicans are aiming their guns at health reform as they campaign to win midterm control of Congress on Tuesday, and many Democrats are ducking the issue.
But come 2012, the overhaul pushed through by President Barack Obama could help him and his fellow Democrats get re-elected.
Republicans accuse Democrats who voted for “Obamacare” of supporting a government takeover of healthcare. Many promise to repeal the reform passed in March after contentious debate and extended medical insurance to millions of Americans have none.
But public opinion on the law has improved — according to Democratic pollsters Stan Greenberg and Celinda Lake — and will work for Democrats in the presidential and congressional elections two years down the road.
“Every day that passes, healthcare gets more popular,” Lake said at a forum hosted by Health Affairs magazine.
“Candidates have changed their rhetoric from repeal to repeal and replace. They’ve noticed, as we have, that voters don’t want to start all over again,” she said.
Listen to audio from the forum, provided by Health Affairs.
Public discontent with Obama and the ailing economy has put Republicans into position to gain control of the House, though they are not expected to pick up 10 seats they need for a Senate majority.
Greenberg said the changing electorate — with more non-white people and more unmarried people, who often do not have health insurance — will work in Democrats’ favor in 2012.
By then, free annual wellness visits for Medicare members, discounts to close the Medicare drug-coverage gap known as the “doughnut hole” and a plan to help small businesses offer tax-free benefits will be phased in.
Recent data shows voters are split on the health law. Lake said favorable views will improve as the law is implemented and voters, particularly senior citizens enrolled in Medicare, begin to see the benefits.
“In two years, when seniors realize it hasn’t cut their Medicare … they’re going to have a different opinion,” Lake said.
Reuters photos by: Jonathan Ernst (Obama at a rally for his health reform in Minnesota, Sept. 2, 2009); Rick Wilking (gastric bypass patient Carolyn Dawson laughs with her surgeon in Denver, Sept. 22, 2010); and, Lucy Nicholson (uninsured girl has eye test in Venice, California, June 25, 2009).
(Updates with link to audio)