All the hand-wringing about the “meaning” of the Scott Brown victory for health reform seems misplaced.
First, polling of Massachusetts voters taken right after the election shows a very confused message. This blog post by Maggie Mahar is long, but is the best summary of the polling data. Bottom line: “the Massachusetts special election does not serve as a referendum on health care legislation. The voters who chose Brown chose him for myriad reasons. They say that they knew he opposed the legislation; about half of his voters counted this in his favor, while half counted it against him. Go figure.”
Part of the confusion stems from public knowledge gaps. National polls show support for the policy elements of reform is much higher than support for “the health reform bill.” Nate Silver of the 538 blog has great analysis and charts here.
More important is this: the impact of the election depends on what we do now. It’s what’s next that counts, not what happened. It’s up to us.
If we take our collective energy for health reform, and continue to let our representatives know that this matters for us, than we can make it happen. Families USA President Ron Pollack said it well, in an open letter to Congress you can sign:
Health reform has never been easy. That lesson has come up throughout this year’s legislative process – as if decades of failed reforms had not yet made that clear.
Health reform, however, is an imperative for our nation’s families. Without reform, health costs will continue to grow much faster than wages. Without reform, many millions of hard-working people and their children will join the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured.
And without reform, businesses, staggered by increasing employee health costs, will either drop coverage or will be unable to make needed investments. As a result, our nation’s economy – and the ability to create good jobs – will suffer.
We must not let that happen.
Some members of Congress have said that we should abandon health reform for a later time. But make no mistake, if we abandon reform now – after moving further than ever before towards meaningful reform – we will not get back to this crucial agenda for a long, long time.
Some other members have suggested that we play “small ball”: adopt only the most popular measures, such as prohibiting exclusions of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, and drop the more systemic reforms.
Unfortunately, that will not work.
As a number of states have learned, insurance market reforms – as important as they are – cannot work without expanded health coverage. Insurance market reforms implemented alone will lead to skyrocketing premiums as sicker, older people secure coverage and younger, healthier people don’t. This incremental approach is a recipe for disaster – both substantively and politically.
One last point: The policy slurs and defamations by health reform opponents, which will undoubtedly continue, cannot be effectively answered unless and until reform is enacted into law. It is only then that Americans around the country will see its benefits.
This is your moment for political courage, vision, and leadership. We urge you to move meaningful health reform forward to its needed enactment.
What can we do?
We urge you to take two critical steps.
First, call your member of Congress today. Urge him or her to push forward with health reform – right away. We have heard that the Massachusetts delegation is not getting many calls. We need to change that. If you don’t know who your Representative is, you can look it up at WhereDoIVoteMA.com. Here are the numbers:
- Michael Capuano, 8th: (202) 225-5111
- William Delahunt, 10th: (202) 225-5601
- Barney Frank, 4th: (202) 225-5931
- Stephen Lynch, 9th: 202-225-8273
- James McGovern, 3rd: (202) 225-6101
- Edward Markey, 7th: (202) 225-2836
- Richard Neal, 2nd: (202) 225-5601
- John Olver, 1st: (202) 225-5335
- John Tierney, 6th: (202) 225-8020
- Niki Tsongas, 5th: (202) 225-3411
Second, attend a rally Tuesday. HCFA is joining with moveon.org, HCAN and many other groups to rally for health reform. We will gather at 1 Bowdoin Square, Boston (map) at 6:00 pm on Tuesday, January 26th. Click here for more information and to sign up.
Remember, it’s not over until we say it’s over.