How did health reform fare as a political issue in the elections?
It’s unclear. In California, the two headline races saw the well-funded candidates who endorsed “repeal and replace” positions lose, to Senator Barbara Boxer who voted for and championed the new law, and Governor-elect Jerry Brown, who pledged to implement the law.
Across the country, many House Democrats lost, whether or not they voted for the health reform measure.
One part of health reform, the “individual mandate,” was on the ballot in three states, with anti-mandate initiatives passing in conservative Arizona and Oklahoma, but another measure being defeated in the swing state of Colorado, which also re-elected Senator Bennet who voted for reform.
Health care wasn’t the top issue in this election, for good or ill. As Ethan Rome of Health Care for America Now writes in the Huffington Post, the polls suggest the overwhelming issue was the economy. A CNN poll has the top issue being jobs and the economy for 61% of the electorate, with health care as a secondary issue at 19%–and that breaks down further in terms of pro- and anti-reform.
“Yes, voters want more and better jobs and are worried about spending and a larger role for government. But anyone who thinks this election is a mandate to repeal the entire Obama health care bill or abolish the Department of Education or repeal any amendment to the Constitution is somebody who truly doesn’t understand public opinion or elections.” said Stuart Rothenberg, Roll Call Contributing Writer.
So what does this election mean for health reform? Voters still want coverage that will be there for them when they need it, and the security that going to get care doesn’t mean facing medical debt or bankruptcy. We still have the same problems in our health care system we have yesterday. The law is still the law, and its effective implementation over the next few years will go a long way to fix some of those problems.
California has started down the path, by passing legislation to start setting up a health insurance exchange, and this week agreeing to a new Medi-Cal waiver, both of which are key elements to ensure a smooth and successful transition to a better health system. But there is so much more to do to fulfill the law’s promise so Californians can get the full benefits. We are pleased that there is renewed leadership in California to take aggressive action to implement and improve the federal law moving forward.
UPDATE: The California Endowment has put out a similar message in a new TV featuring Dr. Oz: