Health Care Reform Millstone

Health Care Reform Millstone


Patrick H. Caddell and Douglas E. Schoen have an editorial in today’s Washington Post that carries a warning for Democrats. And while the message is one that has been around a while, the messengers this time are different.

Caddell has been a thorn in Democrat’s side since 1988, with sharp criticism for the party’s direction. But his resume is impressive; he worked for national candidates and Presidents like George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Gary Hart, Joe Biden and Jerry Brown. Schoen was one of Bill Clinton’s pollsters, but is no stranger to controversy himself: his 2008 book Declaring Independence: The Beginning of the End of the Two-Party System angered partisans on both sides of the aisle.

Like David Frum in the GOP, the voices of those unhappy with their party are often much more important than the cheer-leading done by those toeing the party line.

Pundits tell us that some Democrats no longer speak of the benefits of reform, but only what will happen to their jobs if they don’t pass something, even if it won’t work. In other words, the American people will reward them for at least acting, even if they don’t like the act. Caddell and Schoen address that issue:

First, the battle for public opinion has been lost. Comprehensive health care has been lost. If it fails, as appears possible, Democrats will face the brunt of the electorate’s reaction. If it passes, however, Democrats will face a far greater calamitous reaction at the polls. Wishing, praying or pretending will not change these outcomes.

Nothing has been more disconcerting than to watch Democratic politicians and their media supporters deceive themselves into believing that the public favors the Democrats’ current health-care plan. Yes, most Americans believe, as we do, that real health-care reform is needed. And yes, certain proposals in the plan are supported by the public.

However, a solid majority of Americans opposes the massive health-reform plan. Four-fifths of those who oppose the plan strongly oppose it, according to Rasmussen polling this week, while only half of those who support the plan do so strongly. Many more Americans believe the legislation will worsen their health care, cost them more personally and add significantly to the national deficit. Never in our experience as pollsters can we recall such self-deluding misconstruction of survey data.

They point out that recent polling shows even the dreaded health insurance companies have higher favorability ratings than the government:

Scott Rasmussen asked last month whose decisions people feared more in health care: that of the federal government or of insurance companies. By 51 percent to 39 percent, respondents feared the decisions of federal government more. This is astounding given the generally negative perception of insurance companies.

The authors reject the Republican idea of “starting over”, favoring instead a change of focus to individual measures that will win at least some bi-partisan support and gain success for some legislative attempts that will address the voter’s concerns. The crisis of confidence the Democrats are experiencing will otherwise lead to an electoral blood bath in November.

Cross posted to

  • kranky kritter

    I don’t agree that “the battle for public opinion has been lost.” People looooove to saystuff like this when their side curently sports a slight edge. It’s a silly Tokyo Rose type of game to play, and I call shenanigans.

    Slightly less than half of Americans support the current bill. In none of the polls do they make any mention of asking the folks polls how much they know about the bill. So we don’t know if the uninformed are more negative or more positive, and so on.

    But some folks WILL benefit from this bill. In particular, poor folks who can expect subsidized health insurance soon might discover they like this bill, while previously they had perhaps just been echoing media rancor.

    I don’t believe it would be at all unprecedented for this reform to get a post-passage bump in the polls. People will be glad the battle is over for the time being, and might well talk themselves into it, especially given that it helps provide care to poor Americans at time when times are hard.

    We won’t really know whether the public opinion battle has been lost until the fall elections. I still think the sentiment will be a broad anti-incumbent statement, not one targeted specifically at democrats. Time will tell.

  • SpkTruth2Pwr

    Good read.

    I wonder though, just because it may be a political risk – does that influence the inherent right or wrong embodied in the effort and the provisions?

    I agree the political risks are big and Dems are fighting an uphill battle if health care reform doesn’t produce the changes they predict. But I applaud them, because they are taking a risk that has seemed politically infeasible to many, but is just the right thing to do. I wish there was more of that than political posturing.

  • Frank Hagan

    SpkTruth – my observation is that the pundits are talking more about the impact on the politics of the situation rather than the merits of the senate health care bill. That may be because the news cycle is continuous now, and they need something to talk about, or because, as Caddell and Schoen feel, the Dems are scared to death of the prospects.

    Kranky, the truly poor are already eligible for Medicaid in most states; the increase in subsidies will go to the ‘working poor’ and lower middle class workers. In the end, the subsidies will cause health care prices to rise. Health insurance costs for everyone else will increase according to the CBO. The thing the Dems have going for them is they front loaded the goodies like elimination of pre-existing conditions prior to most of the cuts and tax increases to play for the plan. So if they do pass it, and glowing media reports trumpet these facts, they may be able to mask that the increase in costs is due to this bill when the increases start hitting later.

    I’m off on vacation for a week, so I’m not ignoring you guys after tonight!

  • DK

    But won’t passing health care reform in piecemeal fashion be a disaster.

    Just one example.

    If you eliminate the ability of insurance companies to exclude people for pre-existing conditions and then you don’t require people to have insurance, then could everyone just go without insurance until they get sick?

    And if you require everyone to have insurance, don’t you have to do something about those people who would have trouble affording it?