Healthcare Debate Breaks Along Regional Lines, Experts Say

In October of 2013, Republican opposition to the Affordable Care Act — commonly known as Obamacare — was one of the main drivers behind the two-and-a-half week government shut-down. One year later, in the midst of campaign season, the fight over Obamacare has divided along lines of cable television viewership: in red states, the anti-Obamacare message still resonates. In blue states, where the public is not as “ginned up,” the issue has largely moved to the “back burner.”

This is according to Don Taylor, associate professor of public policy and associate professor of community and family medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine. Taylor, along with James Capretta (G ’87), a former associate director of the Office of Management and Budget, led the latest installment of Duke University’s Election Discussion series Thursday, which focused on the impact healthcare is having on the 2014 midterms.

Capretta pointed to states such as Alaska and Arkansas as examples of where anti-healthcare ads still dominate the airwaves. He contrasted this with states like North Carolina, where the healthcare ads of early 2014 have faded into ads focusing on education and spending. Taylor attributes this shift to the fact that 350,000 North Carolinians have entered into healthcare exchanges, one of the highest rates in the country.

But while healthcare has become a regional debate in the months leading up to the mid-terms, Capretta expects it to once again be a national issue come 2016.

“It’s hard to imagine the Republican nominee not being a critic of the healthcare law,” he said. “While the Democratic nominee will have to defend it, or adopt a ‘keep and improve’ position.”

By then, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 24 million Americans will be covered under healthcare exchanges, which to Taylor means the ship on repealing the law has sailed. For his part, Capretta agreed, saying viable alternatives to Obamacare will now have to include steps on how to get from the current system to that new vision.

The election series continues next Thursday, with Barbara Jentleson, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Education; Jenni Owen, Lecturer in Public Policy and Director of Policy Initiatives for the Center for Child & Family Policy; and Mike Lamb (T ’05), a former Senior Policy Advisor in the Department of Education, leading the discussion on education.

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