Democrats shape health care argument
Democrats are testing a midterm strategy combining abortion rights with a broad array of health care expansion plans, as they try to direct voters' attention away from vulnerabilities on inflation, crime and the border.
Why it matters: While campaigning on health care helped put Democrats over the top in 2018 and 2020, in this cycle, COVID's economic and psychological fallout is putting President Biden's party on its heels.
- But with this week's Supreme Court leak, many voters' intense opposition to ending Roe v. Wade — particularly among women, people 35 and younger and people of color — could nudge health issues front and center.
Driving the news: Democratic group Navigator Research on Friday released a memo with new polling data citing strong public support for elements of Biden's economic agenda — and opposition to implications of a plan proposed by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Many of the memo's data points highlight specific Democratic health care proposals.
- These include calls to expand seniors' Medicare to cover hearing aids, empowering Medicare to lower drug prices, capping monthly insulin costs for diabetics and lowering health insurance premiums for families who must purchase their own coverage.
- Democrats already were gearing up to campaign against the Scott memo, which has not been embraced by all Republicans.
What they're saying: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson Chris Taylor told Axios: “Here’s a guarantee: By November every voter will know Republican extremists want to implement a nationwide abortion ban, voted against lowering drug prices and want to end Medicare as we know it.
- "Democrats want to protect women’s rights, lower health care costs, and expand access to care. It’s just that simple.”
- Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist and advisor to Navigator, said Republicans have moved from a posture of wanting to restrict abortion to trying to ban it altogether. He said Democrats also can make a compelling argument to voters about Republican policies enabling corporate greed while talking about Democratic plans that aim to bring down health costs propelled by greed.
The other side: NRSC spokesman Chris Hartline said Democrats are misleading voters about Scott's proposal and that it "does not call for ending Social Security and Medicare nor does he support raising taxes on half of all Americans."
- Hartline said Democrats' polling arguments "have no basis in reality" and that inflation and surging gas prices on Biden's watch is tantamount to thousands of dollars in tax increases per person. He said Democrats had "created a crisis at our Southern border all while crime is raging across the country... they can’t defend a single thing they’ve done."
Be smart: While Biden's Build Back Better plan included a number of legislative solutions like giving the government the authority to negotiate prescription drug prices, putting caps on drug prices that rise faster than inflation and reducing the cost of insulin, it's unclear how many of those proposals will be signed into law — if at all.
- But framing abortion as a health protection issue gives Democrats a way to push back on Republican claims that Democrats want radical abortion rights.
- And talking about health care in the context of not just medical but economic benefits gives Democrats a way to show voters how they're addressing economic challenges in a time of inflation.
- Only 34% of voters approve of the way Biden is handling the economy, per a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll. But new polling from Pew finds 61% of Americans believe abortion should be legal while 37% believe it should be illegal.
Flashback: Health care was a dominant issue in 2020.