Dems: One Cheer for Health Care Reform?
By distancing themselves from the issue, they've let the Republicans gain the upper hand.
The first wave of big changes under the new health care law take effect today. As my colleague Kevin Drum points out, the changes include some of the provisions that Democrats thought would be the most popular with the public—including a requirement for insurance companies to cover all children, including those with pre-existing conditions, to offer free preventative care, and to allow those under 26 years to be covered by their parents' plans.
Democratic leaders are holding a smattering of press events today to celebrate the new provisions that are going into effect, and some pro-reform advocacy groups like the Progressive States Network are doing the same. But expect the cheerleading for health reform to die down as quickly as it's flared up. In the warm afterglow of health reform's passage six months ago, Democrats predicted that the law would help bolster the party's image before voters. Instead, the Democrats never came out in full force to defend health reform, and vulnerable members up for re-election began running away from reform.
While some anti-reform Democrats have used TV ads to advertise their opposition to the law, barely any pro-reform lawmakers have run ads in support of it. Meanwhile, Republicans have gotten a big boost from outside third-party groups, which have poured $23.6 million into TV ads overall, while their Democratic counterparts have only spent $4.8 million on TV. Progressive fundraising has been anemic, and groups like Health Care for America Now—an advocacy group that went all out during the reform debate—says that it will stay off the airwaves in individual races, focusing its efforts instead on phone calls to seniors.