Policy-ish

All Politics Is Local, And Nothing's More Local Than Health Care

If you thought the passage of the new health law might somehow knock health issues off the political agenda, don't hold your breath.

Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak at a House hearing in February. i i

Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak, shown at a House hearing in February, won't run for reelection. Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images
Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak at a House hearing in February.

Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak, shown at a House hearing in February, won't run for reelection.

Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

Just take a look at Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, a passionate foe of abortion, who is calling it quits in the House after the bruising overhaul battle teed up a tough election fight back home.

Glance at places like Massachusetts and Great Britain, and you'll see the final congressional vote on the overhaul of the health system is likely to mark only the beginning of the topic's renewed hold on the political scene.

In Massachusetts, Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick is facing a stiff challenge in his reelection bid from GOP candidate Charles Baker and Independent-candidate and State Treasurer Tim Cahill. And the state's overhaul — instituted in 2006 — remains a flashpoint in the race. The candidates are sparring over capping insurance rates and cutting health care costs amid a deepening budget crunch.

Indeed, Baker, who recently ran nonprofit insurer Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, traded barbs this week with Patrick. Each accuses the other of not doing enough to tamp down costs.

Baker served on a board that advised the Massachusetts government how to improve care and lower costs, and was appointed to the board by then-Gov. Mitt Romney, who signed the original bill. Cahill, in the meantime, a critic of the law, also has hit Patrick on health care, and said in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that Massachusetts' reforms are a "fiscal train wreck" and that a national reform plan will likely be the same.

In England, where May elections are fast approaching, universal coverage is a constant political battle, especially over cuts to the National Health Service.

Americans might recognize some of the arguments, though with a small twist: the conservative Tories are arguing for more spending on cancer treatments, something the more liberal Labourites oppose. The Economist reports that both parties say they will keep spending on the NHS for the next few years, and that much of their fight still centers around how the money in the system is spent. The health care system is still one of the three hottest topics in this year's contests, the Economist writes.

If races in Britain, Michigan and Massachusetts are any suggestion of what Americans can expect in the coming years, Republican talk of repealing the health care law could be just the beginning.

Villegas is a reporter at Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit news service.

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