The 5-to-4 decision on Obamacare will resonate powerfully this summer and fall as the NY-21 congressional race unfolds, with Matt Doheny (R-Watertown) and Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh) forced to get much more specific about healthcare policy.
Until today, this was in large measure an ideological debate over the question of the Healthcare Reform Act’s constitutional legitimacy. That’s now resolved.
But everyone agrees that the reform effort was deeply flawed. So the question now going forward will be, in far more specific, nuts-and-bolts terms: What next?
How would Bill Owens work to refine and improve HCA if given another term by voters? How would he improve the act’s affordability? Or is he essentially satisfied with the law as it stands?
And for Matt Doheny, as well, questions will be much more specific.
As recently as June 9th, he called Obamacare “a disaster.” If he still wants to repeal Obamacare, as I assume he does, what exactly would he put it in place? How would he pay for it?
How would he treat popular measures of the act, including protections for 20-somethings who are allowed to remain under their parents’ coverage, and people with preexisting conditions?
If I’m right, reporters like myself and rank and file voters won’t be satisfied now with broad political bromides from either major party candidate.
I also think this puts a slightly greater burden, politically, on Doheny.
Given this ruling, and the fact that we now have a law that shapes roughly a fifth of the nation’s economy, the Republican will have to make the argument that we need to go back to the starting line, rather than fine-tuning the existing policy.
That narrative may play well with the GOP’s conservative-tea party base, who see Obamacare as an assault on liberty.
But for moderates and independents — the kinds of voters who will decide the NY-21 contest — it remains to be seen whether there is an appetite for that kind of wholesale do-over.
What do you think? Will healthcare be a factor in your vote in November? What do you want to hear from your candidate, whether that be Doheny or Owens?