Democrats tout healthcare bonafide in midterm stretch run

With the midterm elections looming, vulnerable Congressional Democrats are betting that the health care provisions in the just-passed $740 billion reconciliation bill will give them an advantage and potentially preserve their razor-thin majorities.

Why it matters: Current projections show that Republicans are likely to reverse control of the House of Representatives. But Democrats are trying to repeat their 2018 campaign playbook with news surrounding billing language, allowing Medicare to negotiate the price of some drugs and extending the Affordable Care Act’s expanded subsidies by three years.

Driving the news: Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), who competes in one of the most competitive home races in the country, told Axios the difference this time is that Democrats have made good on their promises.

  • “I think it’s a monumental step and a very significant change that we’re making to a system that hasn’t worked in a very long time,” Spanberger said after a campaign rally at a health clinic in Woodbridge, Virginia.
  • Her message of “mission accomplished” is one of several that Democrats use in the campaign.

Democratic Senators’ Campaign Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich.) described the passage of the bill as a victory over the pharmaceutical industry and Washington’s entrenched interests.

  • “Every Republican voted against the law because it holds Big Oil, Big Pharma and other corporations accountable for driving prices up,” he said. Peters said in a statement.
  • Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) struck a similar tone, touting the way Democrats are doing during a campaign event on Thursday.
  • Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), who won a Democratic primary this week to challenge Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), has contrasted her support for the bill with Rubio’s opposition and the anti-inflation bill helps the working class.
  • Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) during a town hall this week stressed that health insurance premiums for Americans will remain low as Affordable Care Act subsidies are extended, and that is the case will fight inflation.

The big picture: According to a recent study, capping prescription drug prices is the most popular provision in the bill Morning Consult surveywhich said 76% of voters supported the measure, including 86% Democrats, 71% Independents and 69% Republicans.

Yes but: None of the provisions of the bill will come into force before the elections. And the economy and livelihoods will still be at the forefront of voters’ minds, despite falling gas prices and slowing inflation.

  • “One of the reasons the health care law won’t have as much immediate impact is that it will take time for the consequences to take shape in the electorate … the new Medicare rules will have a tremendous impact on their finances, but it is.” I don’t know how visible that will be immediately,” said Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington.

Be smart: The bill nonetheless fulfilled decades of Democratic promises that they would let Medicare negotiate prescription drug costs directly.

  • Crossing that threshold allows Democrats to portray themselves as agents of change while post-Roe v. Wade also made a full-bodied defense of abortion rights.
  • The party’s hopes were boosted on Tuesday when Pat Ryan defeated Republican Marc Molinaro in a special election in New York’s 19th congressional district after making abortion rights a focus of his campaign.
  • Farnsworth sees parallels to 2018, when Democrats’ high turnout was fueled by anger at former President Trump and a desire to change course. Even then, the healthcare system was a focal point.
  • “This is how midterm elections usually work. They’re really painful for the party that controls the White House. This situation is very different mainly because of the Supreme Court ruling,” he said.

Spannberger said While abortion is definitely an issue dear to voters’ hearts, she believes the public health victories will shine through, too.

  • “Everyone knows someone in Medicare, if not you then your parents or grandparents. And so many of the constituents I represent and small business owners rely on the Affordable Care Act for their health insurance,” Spanberger said. “It’s life changing for the people most directly affected.”

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