The Midterm Election and Health Insurance Reform

11 November 2010 |

Americans voted last week, and the returns surprised even those who anticipated that the balance of power in the House of Representatives would shift from the Democrats to the Republicans. The GOP gained more than sixty seats in the House of Representatives, six seats in the Senate, and more than 650 seats in statehouses across the nation. As was the case in the special Senate election held in Massachusetts a few months ago, the federal health insurance reform law was a major campaign issue. Nearly all the insurgent Republicans promised to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act if elected.

After the results made it clear that the Republicans had regained control of the House, the likely new speaker of the House, John Boehner of Ohio, was asked about the fate of the health care insurance reform bill, known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Boehner replied:

The health care bill that was enacted by the current Congress will kill jobs in America, ruin the best health care system in the world, and bankrupt our country. That means that we have to do everything we can to try to repeal this bill and replace it with common-sense reforms that’ll bring down the cost of health insurance.

The Republicans fell short of regaining control of the Senate, but Mitch McConnell, the minority leader in the Senate, promised to bring up repeal of health care insurance bill. He cautioned, however, that President Obama would not go along with the effort. “On health care,” McConnell said, “that means we can — and should — propose and vote on straight repeal, repeatedly. But we can’t expect the president to sign it. We’ll also have to work, in the House, on denying funds for implementation, and, in the Senate, on votes against its most egregious provisions. At the same time, we’ll need to continue educating the public about the ill-effects of this bill on individuals young and old, families, and small businesses.”

 For his part, President Obama did not see the midterm elections as a rebuke of his bill:

 I think we’d be misreading the election if we thought that the American people want to see us for the next two years relitigate arguments that we had over the last two years.

With respect to the health care law, when I talk to a woman from New Hampshire who doesn’t have to mortgage her house because she got cancer and is seeking treatment but now is able to get health insurance, when I talk to parents who are relieved that their child with a preexisting condition can now stay on their policy until they’re 26 years old and give them time to transition to find a job that will give them health insurance, or the small businesses that are now taking advantage of the tax credits that are provided — then I say to myself, this was the right thing to do. 

President Obama does not seem to realize that the benefits he touts—unlimited medical benefits and access to care regardless of pre-existing conditions—are not sustainable, according to the laws of actuarial science. The Republicans, by contrast, understand that in its present form, the health insurance reforms will bankrupt private insurance. Will they succeed in educating the public about the issue? We shall see.

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