Congress heads home to gauge po­lit­i­cal and health­care winds

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEKEND AHEAD - —Paul Demko

Start­ing this week, most mem­bers of Congress will be back home test­ing the po­lit­i­cal and health­care cli­mate ahead of Novem­ber’s elec­tions.

Few po­lit­i­cal ob­servers ex­pect health­care to be as pow­er­ful an is­sue as in 2010, when con­ser­va­tive fury over the pas­sage of Oba­macare led to Repub­li­cans seiz­ing con­trol of the House. The health­care re­form law has since be­come part of the na­tional fur­ni­ture, with many ben­e­fi­cia­ries. Polls have shown that about 40% of Amer­i­cans con­sis­tently back the law and about 55% op­pose it (though some of those foes want a govern­ment sin­gle-payer sys­tem in­stead).

“The Af­ford­able Care Act to a large de­gree is al­ready baked into the cake po­lit­i­cally,” said Kyle Kondik, man­ag­ing edi­tor of Sabato’s Crys­tal Ball, a po­lit­i­cal anal­y­sis web­site out of the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia. “Most vot­ers who are go­ing to be moved by the Af­ford­able Care Act have prob­a­bly al­ready been moved.” Still, Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion could be a fac­tor in some con­tests, with Democrats in close con­gres­sional and gu­ber­na­to­rial races at­tack­ing Repub­li­cans for op­pos­ing the ex­pan­sion. Jennifer Hayes Clark, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal science at the Univer­sity of Hous­ton, also sees po­ten­tial for Democrats to gal­va­nize women vot­ers over the re­cent Supreme Court de­ci­sion al­low­ing com­pa­nies to opt out of con­tra­cep­tive cov­er­age on re­li­gious grounds.

But un­less some block­buster new con­tro­versy emerges, Oba­macare isn’t likely to be the top is­sue on most vot­ers’ minds. “The en­vi­ron­ment we have to­day is prob­a­bly pretty close to the en­vi­ron­ment we’re go­ing to have on Elec­tion Day,” Kondik said.


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