‘Obamacare’ a major issue

A week from today is the two-year anniversary of President Barack Obama signing into law his most significant legislation: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The health-care reform bill is called “Obamacare” by its critics and even by some of its supporters.

Republican criticism helped the party take control of the U.S. House in the 2010 election. Not messing with success, Republicans continue to bang away at the Democratic president and members of his political party for supporting the bill.

The National Republican Congressional Committee sent out generic emails — same language and same quotes with fill-in-the-blank Democratic legislators — on Wednesday criticizing 40 U.S. House members, including Jason Altmire of McCandless, Pa., D-4th, for not voting to repeal the “disastrous” health-care law in January 2011. The emails say various House Democrats “blew [his/her] final chance to rein in the massive big-government behemoth.”

The biggest issues, Republicans say, is the tremendous cost, $1.76 trillion over 10 years, based on an updated estimate by the Congressional Budget Office, as well as its impact on small businesses and the mandate that all people have health care.

Polls show voters favor repealing the law.

Despite the opposition and challenges — as well as the U.S. Supreme Court scheduling arguments for March 26 to 28 on the constitutionality of the individual mandate — the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee are aggressively touting the accomplishments of the law in an effort that started a few days ago.

Female voters

The DNC sent out mailers to female voters in Ohio and other states touting some positives about the bill — free preventative services such as mammographies and gestational diabetes screenings, banning insurance caps on needed care, and allowing parents to keep their children on their health-insurance plans until the age of 26.

Also, the campaign started health-care phone banks in Ohio this week calling supporters to tell them how the bill is already benefiting them and how it will further help them in the future, according to an Obama campaign official in the state.

I asked Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager, about using the issue as a key component of the president’s re-election strategy.

When a person is told specific benefits of the law — largely, children on parents’ plans, free preventative care, not losing health care because of pre-existing conditions, and Medicare changes including prescription drug discount — most support it, she said.

“This is a major accomplishment,” Cutter said, and the campaign will continue to work to get the word out.

With the two political parties sharply divided on the issue, health care will play as large a role as the economy in the general election and not just the presidential race. Which argument resonates more with voters will determine who wins and loses.

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