Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Health Care: The Lesson To Draw From The MA-Senate Race

One of the great thing about this age of the Internet we live in is that lots of organizations can commission polls by professional polling organizations. We aren't limited to the questions that newspapers and television news organizations are interested in anymore. That's a good thing.

Here's an example. After the Massachusetts special Senate election, Democracy For America commissioned a poll to find out what issues affected the outcome. These tables, which I've transcribed from the poll show the attitudes toward health care reform of the people who voted for Barack Obama in 2008, but voted for Republican candidate Scott Brown yesterday. These are only three questions out of all of them, but for me, they're the most important:

QUESTION: Would you favor or oppose the national government offering everyone the choice of a government administered health insurance plan -- something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get -- that would compete with private health insurance plans?

Note that overall, and among independents, the public option is favored more than 6 to 1. Even among Republicans, the margin is nearly 3 to 1. These are only the people who voted for Obama in 2008 and for Brown in 2010, but they represent the sort of folks who supported Obama, and in all likelihood had considered voting for other Democrats, as recently as 2008.

Now, let's look at how they felt about the individual mandate:

QUESTION: Would you favor or oppose requiring all Americans to buy health insurance from private companies -- the so-called mandate -- even if they find insurance too expensive or do not want it?

These swing voters are against the mandate by roughly 2 to 1.

Of course, how strongly voters feel about this issue is important:

QUESTION: Is the issue of national health care reform very important, somewhat important, or not important when deciding how or if to vote?

Roughly a third think it is very important, and others think it somewhat important. That's a fairly large block of voters who will be influenced by how Democrats do on the health care bill.

The numbers were similar among voters who stayed home.

These people represent most of the swing between the victories Democrats enjoyed in 2008 and their defeat in 2010. They also generally gave Democrats and the President low marks on their handling of the economy, which nearly half of both groups described as being very important. But a great many people did not vote for Martha Coakley because they didn't like the way health care is being handled.

I urge anyone who is really interested in how the country is thinking about this issue and the economy to check out the entire poll. I don't find them in the least bit surprising, except for the strength of feeling among Republicans for a public option, which was almost 3 to 1 in favor.

The Senate health care "reform" bill, which does not have public option, and does have an individual mandate, is still being mentioned as the one that Congress intends to pass. Why in the world would any professional politician think this was a good idea? Not only does it have the problem of being exactly what swing voters overwhelmingly do not want, it also restricts abortions by denying federal subsidies for any insurance policy that covers them.

I've explained my disdain for the argument that passing that bill was better than not passing a bill at all. That disdain covered both the fact that the bill makes the situation worse for most Americans, not better, and that I didn't think that any poor or middle class American who understood that bill would appreciate it.

So, to all you people who thought that I and anyone else with the temerity to express that opinion were just hopeless dumbasses, do you want to talk to us like we're intelligent human beings now and explain why you think the way you do? Because I'm sure not seeing it in these numbers.

Better yet, maybe you want to rethink what it is you know.

UPDATE: Over at FireDogLake, Neil has a diary listing things you can do to push the Democrats in a better direction.


montana maven said...

Thanks for the posting. Bookmarked.

M. Simon said...

The people of Massachusetts know that their health care system is bankrupting the State.

What has happened is that the poor who were uninsured only got care when they were in real trouble. Now they have insurance.

Doctors are leaving and waits are increased.

And NONE of the promised savings emerged.

So how would you feel about voting for a reduction in your quality of care in order that the poor would get more?

The only way Mass Care can work is to up spending to ATTRACT doctors to keep patient loads constant. But increasing spending is not viable.

Mass voters IMO think they have gone from a partially broken system to a totally broken system.

Watch this video by the California State Treasurer (a Democrat) to figure out what went wrong:

Government Finance Reform

Short version: Democrats are innumerate and need help from Republicans when it comes to economics. Remember this is a Democrat saying it. He also says Republicans are stupid for their culture war stuff.

M. Simon said...

Let me add that given the health care stuff going on in Mass. was the vote one that was an attempt to save the Democrats from themselves? By giving them an excuse for not passing the bill? i.e. Republican obstructionism.

WV: precusse - how ironic.

Cujo359 said...

The poor aren't doing much better, either, M. Simon, so I think your basic premise needs work. Twenty percent of MA residents still aren't getting health care, and a substantial portion didn't buy insurance even though they're supposed to. Making people buy health insurance was an idea that was stupid on a truly grand scale.

Having a single payer system would have avoided that problem. Unfortunately, with the anti-trust exemption and numerous other hurdles that have been put there mostly to help insurance companies, there is really no way a state can reform insurance on its own. Washington tried it, as have other states. Unfortunately, at the state level, insurance companies are even more firmly in the driver's seat than they are on the federal level.

M. Simon said...

OK. We are not that far apart. The people of Mass. got a lot of pain for no gain or even some loss.

In the current political climate the only way to get anything positive is to create more competition.

The other thing to realize is that insurance is not really insurance. It is a prepaid medical plan.

Third party payer systems are notorious for driving up costs. If the first $2K was out of pocket and the rest was catastrophic insurance people would shop for price except in emergencies.

If I wanted to do something I'd go for most of the Republican plan. It would encourage users to shop around.

Think of it: a stand alone MRI shop can deliver an MRI for $500. You get one in a captive shop (hospital) it costs $2,000. Optional surgery has been coming down in price - mandatory (emergency esp.) has been going up in price.

Any time you bring market forces to bear the price comes down to some minimum. No market forces....

Which is why single payer has to end in disaster. No market forces.

We see it with Defense acquisitions. Why would government health care be any different?

But I understand it. On the left market forces are anathema.

Watch the video at the link I provided.

And just for the record I'm a Republican leaning libertarian independent. I hate the drug war. So there is probably one point of agreement. Funny thing is that when it comes to understanding market forces the left gets them totally when it comes to the drug war and the right pretends that is the one place they don't work. On most other economic questions the positions are reversed.

The drug war does prove one thing. Profit is an immense motivator.

In any case. I don't expect you will change your mind any time soon. And please. Watch the video.

And suppose we get single payer and the Rs use it to totally outlaw abortion when they get in?