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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Health Care and the Democrats

At The New York Times, Thomas Edsall ponders Charles Schumer's contention that health care has hurt the Democrats.
A United Technologies/National Journal Congressional connection poll of 1,013 adults in mid-November 2013 found that by a 25-point margin, 59-34, respondents said that the health care law (which includes a major expansion of Medicaid to cover anyone up to 133 percent of the poverty line, and subsidies for the purchase of private insurance for those between 133 percent and 400 percent of the poverty line) would make things better for the poor. But respondents also said, by a 16-point margin, 49-33, that the law would make things worse for “people like you and your family.” White respondents were even more critical, with 58 percent saying that Obamacare would make things worse for people like you and your family, and 63 percent saying it would make things worse “for the middle class.”
Exit poll data from 1994, after President Clinton’s failed bid to pass health care reform, as well as from 2010 and 2014, provides further support for the Schumer argument. In each of those three midterm elections there were huge white defections from the Democratic Party; in 2010 and 2014, there were comparable defections of senior voters.

The loss of white supporters of House Democratic candidates can be seen in the data. In 1992, white voters split 50-50 between Democratic and Republican House candidates; in 1994, after the Hillarycare debacle, they voted Republican 58-42. By 2010 and 2014, whites voted for Republican House candidates by a 24-point margin, 62-38. The defection of seniors is most striking when comparing exit poll data from 2006 and 2010. In 2006, seniors of all races voted 52-48 for Democratic House candidates; in 2010, they voted 58-42 for Republican House candidates.
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A Brookings Institution analysis of the winners and losers from Obamacare found that the program redistributes costs to the top 80 percent of the income distribution in order to provide benefits to the bottom 20 percent. The analysis, shown in Figure 1, reports that
incomes in the bottom one-fifth of the distribution will increase almost 6 percent; those in the bottom one-tenth of the distribution will rise more than 7 percent. These estimated gains represent averages. Most people already have insurance coverage that will be left largely unaffected by reform. Those who gain subsidized insurance will see bigger percentage gains in their income.