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An Illusionary Majority for Repeal

Fifty-eight percent of Americans want to repeal the health care bill. ~David Brooks [1]

Brooks refers here to the overall pro-repeal number in the latest Rasmussen poll [2]. Like their last poll on health care repeal [3], this one contains several bizarre results when we look at the crosstabs. When we look at the numbers for 18-29 year old likely voters, who have regularly been the age group most supportive of the health care bill from the beginning, we see numbers that make no sense. Three weeks ago, 58% of 18-29 year olds said that they favored repeal, which was already hard to believe, and now that number has leaped to 76%. Looking at the other age groups, we find that pro-repeal sentiment has dropped among 30-39 olds from 52% in March to 48%, and it has risen from 55% to 64% among 40-49 year olds, but remain relatively unchanged among 50-64 year olds (54%) and 65+ likely voters (60%).

According to Rasmussen, by far the most ardent pro-repeal constituency other than self-identified conservatives and Republicans is supposed to be 18-29 year olds. This seems unlikely. 18-29 year olds, the so-called Millennials, were and have continued to be more supportive of Obama than any other age group, and they tend to be more socially and fiscally liberal than any other age group. The Pew survey on Millennials [4] made this very clear. Obviously, something is wrong with this poll. The support/oppose repeal framing of the question ends up lumping in progressive hostility to the health care bill because they think it is too “centrist” and inadequate with the actual desire to repeal the new legislation and start over.

It would be much more useful if we could have a poll result of likely voters that distinguished between opposition to the bill and the willingness to support Republican candidates campaigning for repeal, or even a poll question like the one in the YouGov survey [5] I have mentioned before. According to that YouGov survey of adults, 39.6% agreed that the “current health care reform bill has so much wrong with it that it should not become law.” That is what repeal advocates believe. Another 43% like some elements of the bill, but believe the bill could have been better. 17% are satisfied with the bill as it is. Even when we take into account that this was a survey of adults and not likely voters, that would not translate into 58% support for repeal.

Other weird numbers that leap out from the Rasmussen crosstabs is the even higher percentage of black likely voters who say they favor repeal: up from the implausible 32% of last month to 49% now. Does anyone believe that Republicans are going to win anything close to half of the black vote in the fall? 61% of women favor repeal, while only 55% of men favor the same? We’re supposed to believe that pro-repeal sentiment has jumped 10 points among women and dropped three points among men in the last three weeks? Are Republicans going to win the women’s vote by campaigning on health care repeal? This seems highly unlikely.

Most conservatives and voters 65+ really do oppose the health care bill, and they are more likely to turn out in the fall. If the Democrats are going to suffer major losses, it will be because of the relatively higher turnout of these and other voters for Republican candidates against relatively weaker turnout by the Democratic base and new Obama voters. It will not be because there is a pro-repeal majority swollen by the disaffected ranks of Obama’s core constituencies. In practice, very few of the young, black, women and Democratic voters who say that they favor repeal will actually vote in such a way as to make repeal more likely.

6 Comments (Open | Close)

6 Comments To "An Illusionary Majority for Repeal"

#1 Comment By Lev On April 15, 2010 @ 11:58 am

The other factor here is that all those stories about businesses taking write-offs have given a chunk of the public a negative impression of health care reform. This really signifies that opinion of this bill outside the hard-core opponents is pretty pliable, and can be swayed by reports of new consumer protections, expanded coverage of the poor, etc.

#2 Comment By tbraton On April 15, 2010 @ 1:23 pm

“When we look at the numbers for 18-29 year old likely voters, who have regularly been the age group most supportive of the health care bill from the beginning, we see numbers that make no sense. Three weeks ago, 58% of 18-29 year olds said that they favored repeal, which was already hard to believe, and now that number has leaped to 76%.”

While the numbers you cite show a clear contradiction, there may be greater reason to believe the numbers of 18-29 year olds favoring repeal because the fact of the matter is that that age group gets stiffed more than any other under Obamacare. Not only does the individual mandate require those generally healthy citizens to carry insurance, but the community rating contained in the new law allows insurance companies to charge young adults twice what they would have ordinarily charged them (the House version of the bill would have required that they be charged three times as much). Young adults incur healthcare costs roughly 1/6 of those incurred by seniors, but Obamacare says that seniors cannot be charged premiums more than three times those of young adults. Thus, young, generally healthy adults will be forced to subsidize the more expensive healthcare costs of their seniors. Of course, I am assuming that those poll numbers are based on actual knowledge of Obamacare’s provisions by 18-29 year olds, which is an assumption that cannot safely be made since young adults usually have much better things to do than keep up with current legislation (having once been an 18-29 year myself).

The thing that will throw a monkeywrench into Obamacare will be a ruling by the courts that the individual mandate violates the U.S. Constitution, which I personally believe to be highly likely. (Proponents of Obamacare were arguing that the other provisions of Obamacare (such as elimination of the preexisting condition requirement) would not be possible unless all adults were forced into the system.) Then, by necessity, it will be back to the drawing board, leading to possible repeal of Obamacare.

#3 Comment By MBunge On April 15, 2010 @ 3:25 pm

“The thing that will throw a monkeywrench into Obamacare will be a ruling by the courts that the individual mandate violates the U.S. Constitution”

If that happens, kiss the private health insurance industry goodbye. NO ONE is going to repeal the restrictions on the industry’s ability to discriminate against consumers. Without that ability and with nothing like the individual mandate to compensate for that loss, the already massively dysfuctional health insurance market will go completely insane and you can be damn sure the Democrats are not going to be interested in going out on another limb to do anything about it.

Mike

#4 Comment By tbraton On April 15, 2010 @ 5:03 pm

Back in 1988, Congress passed with overwhelming bi-partisan majorities in both houses the Catastrophic Medicare Coverage Act, originally proposed by President Reagan, that would have provided additional benefits to medicare recipients and imposed an additional tax on those recipients. A year later, after a revolt by seniors, the law was repealed, again by wide bi-partisan majorities. The same could happen to Obamacare, depending on the results in this November’s election.

The no-preexisting condition mandate is extremely unfair and would permit affected individuals to game the system. Subsequent legislation, for example, could rein in that provision by imposing a time period before the insurance company would have to pay for costs associated with the preexisting condition, unless the customer was already covered by an insurance policy. This might give an incentive to those with preexisting conditions to sign up early and not wait until the last minute when the issuance of coverage would guarantee the insurance company would lose money on that customer. We don’t allow people to buy fire insurance after the house is already aflame. Other provisions, such as the abolishment of the lifetime cap, will probably remain, but at the cost of premiums being higher. (I would venture a guess that most Fortune 500 companies currently have no lifetime caps, based on conversations with a couple of Fortune 500 employees.)

The whole healthcare bill was sold on the basis of a complete lie, namely that the new law would reduce the deficit by $140 billion in the next 10 years. That lie will be exposed when Congress enacts legislation in the next several months that will repeal the legislatively mandated cut to doctors’ fees under Medicare by 21%. That will convert the deficit reduction into a deficit increase by a like amount and will provide additional hay to the Republicans for the November elections.

#5 Comment By Sean S. On April 16, 2010 @ 10:47 am

“The no-preexisting condition mandate is extremely unfair and would permit affected individuals to game the system. ”

That’s right! Those thieves with juvenile on-set diabetes, genetic disorders, and childhood diseases trying to game the system! Who do they think they are? Back to the looms and the coal mines so you can pay off your bills!

In all seriousness though, and without the snark, the provision about pre-existing conditions is the least likely to get repealed, for all the sarcastic reasons I listed above. And because healthcare providers, whom often get stiffed when treating patients who cannot get coverage, will fight to keep it there. And your argument about the insurance companies losing money on the individual is irrelevant, since any risk-pool, by definition, will lose money on a portion of individual members. If you’re arguing that a risk-pool should not have any money-losing members, than you are essentially arguing for a risk-pool WITHOUT risk. Which seems kind of pointless, but which I imagine many insurance companies would want.

#6 Comment By tbraton On April 19, 2010 @ 10:09 am

“And your argument about the insurance companies losing money on the individual is irrelevant, since any risk-pool, by definition, will lose money on a portion of individual members. If you’re arguing that a risk-pool should not have any money-losing members, than you are essentially arguing for a risk-pool WITHOUT risk.”

If the decisions were being made on strictly insurance principles, I would say that you have a point, but, as in the case of the 18-29 year olds I cited, that is clearly not the case. The NY Times had an article on the front page of Sunday’s National Edition entitled “New York Offers Costly Lessons on Insurance,” [6], describing how New York State insurance regulations contain many of the features of Obamacare but have contributed to the highest health insurance premiums in the nation: “an expensive lesson in unplanned consequences. Premiums for individual and small group policies have risen so high that state officials and patients’ advocates say that New York’s extensive insurance safety net for people like Ms. Welles is falling apart.”

With specific regard to the insurance premium increase for 18-29 year olds mandated by Obamacare (and previously mandated by NY insurance law), a blogger posted as follows in response to the NY Times’ article:

“The rebuttal to this will be that most young, healthy people earn much less and will get federal subsidies, but that still depends on them deciding whether to pay anything out of pocket at all for a comprehensive policy that clearly doesn’t suit them. That argument neglects the fact that the actual costs will still skyrocket, but that taxpayers will be on the hook for the subsidies, which will have to increase to match the premium hikes to remain effective. Instead of just having premiums based on rational risk assessments, we have the young and healthy subsidizing premiums for the older and less healthy, who then subsidize the younger and healthier through federal handouts. It’s an insane feedback loop.
If nothing else, this proves a couple of points that critics have made all along. The mandates are nothing more than a way to get the young to create a proxy welfare state by forcing them into a usurious insurance model. It does nothing to reduce actual costs, and in fact makes cost increases both more likely and more amplified.”
[7]

This is what happens when you try to game the system and make it do what it wasn’t designed to do in the first place. By making the healthy pay higher premiums to offset the higher costs of the sick, you are asking the healthy to subsidize the unhealhy lifestyles of others, whether it be the result of overeating, abuse of alcohol or drugs, or risky sex resulting in AIDs. It would be analogous to having homeowners in Florida with hurricane shutters pay higher premiums to make up for the greater losses incurred by homeowners without shutters. That way you penalize the ones who have taken preventive measures and reward the ones who have failed to take such preventive measures, instead of the other way around.