Despite the administration's efforts to talk it up, the American public is not readily warming up to the new health bill. When polled in August, the percentage of Americans who had a favorable impression of the law had dropped by 7%, in just one month! As a hot topic for mid-term elections, it could sway voting patterns. Changes in the makeup of congress could dramatically change the future of health care reform, so let's look at why public opinion and the HCR temperatures are dropping:
- One reason may be the mandate - the rule that each individual must obtain health insurance of some kind, like a vehicle owner with car insurance. If a citizen chooses to ignore the mandate, he or she will be fined. Some do not believe that setting fines for a lack of insurance is a legitimate use of Congress' power. Also, the mandate recently triggered another state vs. federal debate, as Missouri and other states' Congressmen fight for exceptions to the federal rule due to what they identify as the unique needs of their states.
- The bill is putting some industry players, namely agents, brokers and small firms, out of business. While this could be chalked up to changing needs within a free market, public opinion demands job creation, not destruction.
- People vote with their wallets and their hearts, so if they aren't feeling immediate benefits, they start asking, "What have you done for me lately?" To address the dissatisfaction, the Obama administration has amended Medicare benefits to include tobacco cessation counseling and has just released a state-specific report on the immediate benefits of HCR, which describes the impact on families, women, young adults, small businesses, etc. It is a useful tool for public education but for most folks there's a major disconnect between benefits "reported" vs. benefits "felt."
- One of the most touted benefits of the reform bill is that people with particularly bad health, previously hopeless in the private market, can get affordable insurance through a federal program known as the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. It intends to offer coverage to the uninsurable until 2014 when people should be able to choose from affordable policies available on an "Exchange." This plan isn't fully operational and has yet to deliver on promises made: 3,600 individuals have applied and only 1,200 of those have been approved for benefits.
- For details on other perks, The National Center for Policy Analysis just published one of the most readily understandable consumer's guides to the new health law. It covers all the main FAQs including what's in the bill, costs, resources and sufficient situational responses for universal applicability.
What impact will this all have on elections? Well it will probably have a lot according to bloggers, pundits, and political wonks. Republicans are making healthcare reform a wedge issue, spending $24 million on anti-health care reform TV commercials. This has Democrats hot and bothered, and new strategies for effective pro-reform messaging are now being debated internally. At this point in the game, strategists are counseling candidates to talk about other issues on the campaign trail.
As with most reform, implementation takes time. In the meantime, HeadCount is keeping politics fresh and exciting with a new video featuring HeadCount artists like Ben Harper and The National for election season. No matter what: VOTE AGAIN in 2010.