Since the Massachusetts special election, the conservative media have repeatedly claimed that voters' decision to elect Republican Scott Brown to the Senate is a reflection of how the nation feels about Democrats' health care reform legislation. They said it was a "referendum" on health care, and that voters had rejected it.
For example, on Fox & Friends, Steve Doocy said the election "may be a big indicator on how people across the country really feel about health care reform in the United States." We argued at the time that "Massachusetts is not representative of the nation as a whole since it already has a health care program that insures nearly all residents -- a unique situation that allowed Brown to argue that Massachusetts would not benefit from health care reform."
Today, Alec MacGillis of The Washington Post reaffirms that view. In an article titled, "Brown's victory in Mass. senate race hardly a repudiation of health reform," MacGillis wrote that Massachusetts voters are biased against national health care reform because they already have universal health care coverage, and if the reform were to pass, they would effectively be subsidizing the states that don't. From the article:
While many are describing the election to fill the late Edward M. Kennedy's Senate seat as a referendum on national health-care reform, the Republican candidate rode to victory on a message more nuanced than flat-out resistance to universal health coverage: Massachusetts residents, he said, already had insurance and should not have to pay for it elsewhere.
Scott Brown, the Republican state senator who won a stunning upset in Tuesday's election, voted for the state's health-care legislation, which was signed by then-Gov. Mitt Romney (R) and has covered all but 3 percent of Massachusetts residents. That legislation became the basic model for national health-care legislation. Brown has not disavowed his support for the state's law, which retains majority backing in Massachusetts.
Instead, he argued on the campaign trail that Massachusetts had taken care of its own uninsured, and it would not be in the state's interest to contribute to an effort to cover the uninsured nationwide.
Brown's message underscores a little-noticed political dynamic in a country where rates of the uninsured vary widely, from Massachusetts to Texas, where 25 percent are uninsured. Seeking national universal coverage means sending money from states that have tried hard to expand coverage, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest, to states that have not, mostly in the South and West.
Supporters of the national legislation say this transfer is an unfortunate but unavoidable aspect of expanding coverage. But, they argue, the nation is misinterpreting expressions of self-interest in Massachusetts as grand opposition to universal health insurance.
"Massachusetts's reforms continue to be popular in Massachusetts -- sufficiently popular that Brown did not repudiate them," said Paul Starr, a Princeton public affairs professor. "Here is a state that has enacted a similar reform and it is popular. That should encourage people that if it's done at the national level, that it would work as policy, and that it would be popular."