If Democrats Campaign on Obamacare Will They Lose White Votes?

Recently, the New York Times ran a  front-page story reporting that Democrats running for Congress are reluctant to “run on Obamacare.” Instead, they are “running away from it, while Republicans are prospering by demanding its repeal.” The problem, according to the Times, is that discussions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) tend to focus on “coverage for those of modest means,” and this “has led white voters to see the law as an act of government redistribution to the 15 percent of the population that is uninsured.”

As proof, the paper cites a five-month-old New York Times/CBS News poll showing that “just 17 percent of whites said the health law would help them while 41 percent said it would hurt; among blacks, 42 percent said it would help them while 15 percent predicted it would hurt.”

“Democrats could ultimately see some political benefit” from Obamacare the story acknowledges.  But as candidates prepare for mid-term elections, “they are confronting a vexing reality: Many of those helped by the health care law — notably young people and minorities . . . tend to vote in midterms at lower rates than older and white voters.”

The reporter points to two Democratic candidates in Georgia who are doing their best to distance themselves from reform: “Jason Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, who is running for governor, and Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn, a candidate for the Senate.. . .  They have spoken in public about the law mostly to criticize it, did nothing to promote enrollment for insurance before last month’s deadline and declined interviews to even discuss the law.”

                         Who Benefits From Obamacare?

The Times describes those who will be helped by reform as people “of modest means.” This is a phrase that newspapers such as the New York Times, The Washington Postl and the Wall Street Journal often use to refer to the poor or the lower-middle-class –i.e., not you, dear reader.”  (Try Googling this rather old-fashioned, faintly British phrase, along with the names of these papers, and you will be startled by how often it pops up.)

In this country, we do not like to talk about class. I recall that when I first became a journalist, I was told that if I wanted to write about “the rich” and “the poor,” I should refer to them as “the have’s” and “the have not’s.” Of late, “people of modest means” seems to have become the preferred euphemism for the working-class. That phrase makes it clear that these are plain, hard-working folks, and we respect them– or at least we would if we knew any of them.

What is peculiar about this story is that it overlooks the fact that there are a great many white, middle-aged Americans “of modest means” who now have affordable insurance, thanks to the ACA. Perhaps they don’t read the Times, but they do vote. Why wouldn’t they cast their ballots for candidates that support Obamacare?

As for “government redistribution” of income, the article seems to suggest that middle-class white Americans will be paying more in taxes in order to help “the 15% of the population that is uninsured.”  In fact, only the wealthiest 2% (those earning more than $200,000, $250,000 for couples)  face tax increases that will help fund universal health care for working-class, middle-class and upper-middle-class Americans of all ages and colors.

                       Obamacare Protects the Under-insured   

Moreover, the group that benefits includes not just “the 15% who are uninsured,” but millions of Under-insured Americans who have been trying to get by on cheap policies that did not cover:

brand-name drugs, even if there was no generic substitute;

hospital bills over $2,000;

— chemotherapy;

ambulances;

doctors’ visits while the patient is in the hospital.

                   Subsidies for the Upper-Middle Class

Some readers may be surprised by my claim that the ACA helps not just the middle-class, but many in the “upper-middle-class.”

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