Some people are spinning hard about the outcome of the mid-term elections. They are trying to say that the changes in Congress were a "mandate" to repeal health care reform. As usual, most of those spinners have little to say about how to resolve health care issues -- for them it is an ideological or political issue, not an issue of importance in everyday lives. It is a tactical issue in the beltway game, a ploy in the never-ending struggle for power and for special interest money.
But out here, when the issue is reduced to kitchen table reality, people don't think ideologically or politically. They think about their own health care, their families' health care, and their own financial circumstances.
Here are some numbers about health coverage and the election.
Even on the ideological level on which they choose to operate, the spinners are wrong. The election result was driven by concern about the economy and jobs, not health care. According to a CNN exit poll, only 19 percent of voters named health care reform as their top concern -- a distant second to the 61 percent of voters most concerned with the economy.
On the big abstract ideological question about support for the health reform law, the voters split down the middle: 48 percent say they support repeal and 47 percent say they want the reform law to stay the same or be expanded. Some mandate.
Polls consistently confirm that when the public hears truthful facts (as opposed to the other kind of "facts") about the health reform law, they want the benefits and support health reform. The specifics of health care reform already help people in ways that matter deeply to them. Undoing health care reform would mean:
- People would continue to be denied coverage or charged more for it due to pre-existing conditions.
- People diagnosed with the particular pre-existing condition of being female would continue to be discriminated against in the cost of their coverage. The spinners would continue that outrageous discrimination.
- People would continue to have coverage dropped when they get sick.
- People would continue to have lifetime caps on their insurance coverage.
- Small businesses would continue to have to pay higher rates for health insurance than big corporations.
- There will be no smart investment in prevention as the focus of our healthcare system -- clearly the way to get both lower cost and better patient outcomes.
- People would lose the comfort of knowing that, no matter what happens to their job, their health, or their family there will always be access to affordable decent coverage.
- Entrepreneurs would continue to experience the drag on their creativity and chances for success caused by the health coverage problems. And health coverage issues would continue to prevent would-be entrepreneurs from even getting started, stuck in their current jobs in order to retain insurance.
The post-election spinners stay far away from these real problems. The new law leaves the private insurance sector in place (a single payer system would have ended it), but imposes fair boundaries on it. The spinners, scrupulously avoiding anything specific about how to address health coverage issues, instead simply call the new law "a takeover" and "socialism." But calling something a name is not the same as talking about it honestly; indeed, it's a time honored way to stifle full discussion. The health reform law is in fact a very promising public-private effort to address a problem that plagues American households everywhere. The spinners are wrong about the importance to real people of health care reform. When the focus is on the actual health coverage problems that plague American households, most Americans want their federal and state officials to get on with implementation -- and do a good job of it.