Health Reform Debate Returns to the Airwaves as Midterms Draw Closer
Two months before the midterm elections, there’s a bit of deja-vu in the air: a new round of ads are running on health care reform. On Wednesday, former New York Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, held a news conference to launch an ad campaign by his group “Revere America.” The ad targets Democrats who voted for health reform.
“Your congressman voted for Obamacare, government-run health care. It’s a bad plan,” the ad begins. It ends: “It’s a plan we didn’t want and don’t need, but he voted for it anyway. Defeat your congressman.”
The ad comes as polls show public support for the law declining. An August Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that the percentage of people who viewed the law favorably slid from 50 percent in July to 43 percent in August.
Pro-health reform groups are countering with ads of their own. The Health Information Center, founded this summer by Democratic strategists, has launched a new website and a $2 million advertising campaign to go with it. The new ad highlights people who say their insurance situations will improve because of reform.
“America’s health care reforms change lives for the better,” the ad says. “It’s not just fair, it’s the law.”
Individual Democrats, however, are shying away from running their own health care reform ads. Politico reports that no Democratic incumbents have run a pro-reform ad since April.
In fact, the only Democrats who are mentioning health care reform in TV ads this campaign season are a handful of those who voted against the law. Representatives including Glenn Nye, D-Va., Jason Altmire, D-Pa., Walt Minnick, D-Idaho, and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., are all running ads in their conservative-leaning districts touting their votes against the law.
But election analyst Nate Silver of the NYT’s FiveThirtyEight blog says that although Democrats aren’t running on their health reform votes, they’re not running away from them either. Silver takes an in-depth look at how incumbent Democrats are treating the issue of health care reform on their campaign Web sites:
The Democrats’ message was varied. Some, like Colleen Hanabusa, who is running in Hawaii’s First Congressional District in Honolulu, had clear praise for the Democrats’ health care goals. Others, like Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, a moderate Democrat from South Dakota who voted against the bill, lauded some of the bill’s achievements, while criticizing other provisions and calling for further reform.
Still, most Democrats were willing to engage their constituents on the issue. And beneath the surface, their message was fairly consistent. Most Democrats — whether they voted for the bill or against it — suggested that it had been a reasonable start and had worthy goals, but that it required further tinkering.
There are a few places where Democrats will be unabashedly talking up the new bill. Politico reports that Democrats believe that health care reform may provide a boost for them in a few left-leaning districts with incumbent Republicans or no incumbents running for reelection.
Meanwhile, health insurers entered the political fray this week, the Wall Street Journal reports. Aetna, some Blue Cross Blue Shield plans and others have asked state insurance regulators for permission to raise premiums between one and nine percent for individual plan customers, in order to pay for some of the new requirements in the health reform law.
But the White House is pushing back. White House health reform official Nancy-Ann DeParle told the Wall Street Journal that insurers were using the new law as an excuse to justify rate increases that they would have asked for anyway. “We believe consumers will see through this,” she said.