Health Reform: Polls' Results Make Matters Tough for Democrats

Democrats looking to next year's midterm elections plan to market the healthcare bill as a way to help voters who are focused more on unemployment and the economy.

The chances of passing healthcare legislation rose significantly Monday, with a Senate vote that put it on track to clear the chamber by Christmas. And so party strategists are shifting gears: "We can't just pass it," said pollster Celinda Lake. "We have to sell the plan."

A sour public mood may make matters tough for Democrats, whose comfortable congressional majority will be at risk. Recent polls have shown that voters are impatient with incumbents -- and that the economy is their overriding concern.

"They've been talking about everything but what voters are most concerned about," Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman, said of the Democratic leadership, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama hailed the late-night vote, which followed a long, often acrimonious debate, as a "big victory for the American people".

If approved, the legislation, which aims to cover 31 million uninsured Americans, could lead to the biggest change in US healthcare in decades.

Monday's vote, in which senators split 60 to 40 along party lines, was a crucial victory for the president, BBC News reports.

It was also reported, voters understand what is going to happen and have turned against it. An NBC poll found that just 32 percent believe the health reform plan is a good idea, versus 47 percent who say it's a bad idea. Gov. David A. Paterson says the bill will add at least $1 billion to the state's Medicaid bill.

In the meantime, the Senate bill is not without its strengths. As Victoria Reggie Kennedy, widow of Sen. Edward Kennedy, observed in Sunday's Washington Post, the Senate bill would provide coverage to 30 million Americans who lack it. Insurance companies would no longer be able to deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition. They would not be able to drop coverage when people get sick. Those are virtues upon which a stronger bill could be built.

Often in American politics, it is better to take half a loaf than to hold out for more. Don't allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. The problem is that this bill isn't even half a loaf. Not only is it insufficient, but it will almost certainly create a costly worse result.

The political calendar will hinder that work, since it's hard to get Congress to do anything difficult in an election year. But that risk is more acceptable than passing a health reform bill that makes matters worse, Buffalo News reports.

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