By: Emily Beaver
After Massachusetts voters elected Republican Scott Brown of Massachusetts to the Senate Tuesday, members of Congress immediately starting talking about what to do about health reform.
"Scaling back", "paring down", and "stripping down" are some of the phrases being used to describe how health care reform might change since the Democrats lost their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. It sounds more like going on a diet than changing public policy -- but what politicians are really talking about cutting out are reforms that would help everyone get health insurance. And with young adults making up a disproportionate share of the uninsured population, many young people wouldn't receive any benefits from a "scaled back" health reform package.
So what does Tuesday's election mean? Some politicians read the election as a sign the public is more concerned about jobs than health care. Some are saying the public just doesn't support or understand the health care reform plans Democrats originally proposed. Others say Massachusetts voters, who already have a statewide universal health insurance program, don't want to help other states that haven't provided insurance to all residents.
Politics matter when it comes to health care reform. Reform was a legislative priority for Democrats, but Republicans opposed their health reform proposals. With Brown replacing the late Senator Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat who died in August, the Senate Democrats only have 59 votes. They need 60 votes to stop Republicans from filibustering - a tactic the minority party can use to stall legislation. Now it's likely than any health reform passed will need to have support from both parties.
President Obama is already backing off one of the major health reform goals -- making sure that everyone has health insurance. Instead, he would focus on regulating the insurance industry more and lowering the cost of providing health care - parts of health reform both Democrats and Republicans might be able to agree on.
In his speech about health reform in September, President Obama sandwiched the importance of insuring everyone between the more popular parts of health reform -- lowering costs and protecting people who already have insurance. Young adults are less likely to be offered health insurance at work, usually don't qualify for government programs, and get dropped from their parents' insurance plans. More regulation of the health insurance industry wouldn't help people who can't afford insurance. Despite their support for President Obama in the 2008 election, many young people could be in danger of getting left out of health reform now.