Democrats, Republicans Still Trying to Define the Healthcare Law

The issue's November impact will depend largely on the Democrats' latest attempt to sell the law.

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Right after Congress passed healthcare reform in March, proponents and opponents of the bill started pouring money into political advertising. Healthcare for America Now, the main grassroots pro-reform organization, immediately put $1 million into ads thanking Democrats who voted for the bill despite facing tough re-election campaigns. Meanwhile, the National Republican Congressional Committee quickly produced ads characterizing the legislation as a "cost-raising, tax-increasing bill" and urged voters to "stop the madness."

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These ads will most likely keep appearing from now until November, given how divided Americans remain over healthcare reform. According to polls this spring, roughly equal numbers of Americans say passing the bill was a "good thing" or a "bad thing." Perhaps more interesting, and more relevant for November, was the finding that a large majority of Americans, nearly 60 percent, said they were still confused about how the new law would affect them and their families.

In other words, the impact of healthcare reform on the November midterms will depend in large part on how effectively the Obama administration and Democratic leaders explain and sell the bill—and how effectively critics label it a boondoggle. Democrats are hoping voters will be mindful of the provisions going into effect this year—those 26 and under being able to stay on their parents' insurance, help for many seniors to buy prescription drugs—and reward them accordingly. Democrats this week were eager to note that the first checks to seniors who fall into the prescription drug "donut hole" had gone out.

The healthcare issue will be particularly hot in certain states, such as Florida, which, thanks to a bill passed by the state legislature, will ask voters in November whether they favor an amendment nullifying the reforms. Of course, even if voters say yes, such an amendment would surely face legal challenges.