Republicans keep saying that the 2010 midterm election was a mandate from the American people to repeal the health care reform bill, a.k.a. "Obamacare."
That's not true, like so much else that leaves the lips of Republican leaders these days. A New York Times/CBS poll found that only 20% of people said they want to do away with the entire bill.
And of those, it turns out that when asked about specific parts of the bill, very few wanted to repeal anything.
The poll first asked people a straight-up question -- should we do away with the law completely, or let it stand -- and found that 40 percent favor repeal, versus 48 percent who want to leave it as is. That near-split mirrors virtually all other polls that asked the question this way -- they all find some solid support for repeal.
But here's where it gets interesting. The NYT/CBS poll then asked the pro-repeal camp whether they want to "repeal all of the health care law, or only certain parts of it." Suddenly the number who favor full repeal drops to 20 percent -- one-fifth -- while 18 percent peel off and say they want to repeal "certain parts."
It gets even better. The poll then asked people who support repeal an open-ended question: Which parts of the law do you want done away with? The number who said "everything" drops again, this tiime to eight percent. Eleven percent want the individual mandate repealed. But guess what? The number who called for repeal of other key individual items in the bill -- the pre-existing conditions piece; the coverage for people up to age 26; and so on -- was consistently one percent or less for each of them.
One freaking percent! That's no mandate for repeal.
It's a sign that Senate Dems and President Obama need to stand firm and respect the will of the people: smooth and improve the rough edges of the legislation, but otherwise tell the Republicans to keep their damn hands off of our nation's much-improved (but still flawed) health care system.
Question 71 of the poll asked how well people thought the impact of the health care law on themselves and their family had been explained to them. Fifty-six percent said "not too well" or "not well at all."
This indicates that support for the health care reform bill should increase as Obama and the Democratic leadership explain what it does and how Americans will benefit from the legislation.
For example, the mandate for everyone in the country to have health insurance is necessary if the very popular ban on insurance companies denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions is to remain in place.
Why? For the same reason you can't buy fire insurance and file a claim after your house has burnt down.
If all citizens weren't required to have health insurance, but health insurance companies had to issue a policy regardless of someone's pre-existing conditions, then many people would wait to buy insurance until they became seriously ill. This would raise premiums for other long-term policy holders, since a basic premise of insurance is sharing risk broadly.
Hopefully Senate Democrats will press ahead with their notion of requiring Republicans to vote on repealing specific pieces of the health care reform bill. This will force them to say whether or not they want to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, along with other provisions of the bill that are hugely popular.
Nothing's been finalized, including precisely how they'd go about it. But the point would be to turn a global health care repeal push into something more piecemeal -- should seniors pay back their $250 doughnut hole check? Should children with pre-existing conditions be stripped of insurance?
"Senior staff are giving serious consideration to the strategy of forcing Republicans to take tough votes on extremely popular elements of the health care law, including the doughnut hole provision, as well as pre-existing conditions," the aide said.