By Alexander Bolton - 03/28/10 04:13 PM EDT
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the architect of the Democrats’ large Senate majority, predicted Sunday that healthcare reform would be an asset for Democratic candidates in November.
While Republicans have pledged to make healthcare the centerpiece of their 2010 political strategy, Schumer said the move would blow up in their faces.
A Washington Post poll published Sunday showed that 50 percent of people oppose the law while 46 percent support it.
The poll showed that public support for the reform has not improved much since Obama signed it into law, even though a USA Today poll from earlier in the week showed the proposal gaining favor, with 49 percent describing it as “a good thing” compared to 40 percent who disagreed.
Republican leaders hope to capitalize on the law’s unpopularity to defeat Democratic incumbents. While all Democratic senators voted for the healthcare reform bill, three -- Sens. Blance Lincoln (D-Ark.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) -- voted against the reconciliation package last week; only Lincoln is up for re-election.
“I think the slogan will be repeal and replace,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) of the GOP’s campaign message in coming months.
Schumer argued that polls have showed weak public support for the law because many people don’t understand what the legislation will do.
“It’s going to become more popular and here’s why,” Schumer said. “The lies that have been spread, they vanish because you see what’s in the bill.”
Schumer said people will soon realize that the bill will not set up so-called death panels, as Republicans warned in the summer, and that illegal immigrants would not receive subsidized healthcare as a result of the law.
“The No. 1 lie that bothers people is that you’ll lose your insurance if you have it now and are pretty happy with it,” Schumer said.
He asserted that fear is greatly exaggerated.
Democrats also argue that public support for the law will grow once the benefits begin to kick in this year.
In 2010, children will be allowed to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26; insurance companies will not be allowed to deny coverage to children because of pre-existing conditions; small businesses will get tax incentives to provide health benefits to workers; and high-risk individuals will be able to join federally-subsidized pools to help them buy insurance.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who appeared with Schumer on “Meet the Press”, said the law would provide Republican candidates with plenty of ammunition.
“We're going to have a spirited civil contest on the size and shape of government and healthcare will be center stage,” Graham said.
Graham said the law would cut $570 billion from Medicare to pay for new health insurance subsides to expand coverage to more than 30 million Americans.
“The legacy on taxes is going to be enormous, from 2014 to 2023, a trillion dollars in additional taxes,” Graham said.
Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, said people will begin to support the law when they learn more about it because “it’s good for them.”
“We are confident that the American people will support this,” Jarrett said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Jarrett mentioned an estimated $138 billion in federal savings as a major selling point of the bill.
Jarrett also said that corporations would begin to see benefits, despite estimates from companies such as AT&T, John Deere & Company and Caterpillar that the law would cost them tens of billions of dollars in the future.
“What they're going to have to write off is nothing compared to the enormous financial benefits to those very same companies by health insurance reform that will bring down their costs substantially,” Jarrett said.
Jarrett said the anticipated costs to companies comes from a change in the law that does not allow them to deduct the amount they spend for employees prescription drug coverage and also accept a 28-percent subsidy from the federal government.
“We're taking a number of measures that will dramatically reduce the cost of business,” Jarrett added. “So on balance, business will come out way ahead, and that was one of the president's objectives.”
This story was updated at 12:50 p.m.