Although a recent poll conducted by Elon University found that three-fourths of North Carolinians support health care reform, only five of North Carolina’s 13 congressmen voted for the recent House resolution on health care.
The general population poll, conducted Oct. 26 to 29, surveyed 703 N.C. residents via cell phones and landlines and has a margin of error of 3.8 percent. The poll asked respondents about their views on the economy and health care. It found that 54 percent of those surveyed supported the public health care option being debated in Congress at the time.
All five Republican congressmen in the state voted along party lines and against the Affordable Health Care for America Act, which was narrowly passed by the House of Representatives Nov. 7, 220 to 215. The bill’s key provisions include prohibiting insurers from denying coverage based on patients’ medical histories. The act also establishes a government-run insurance plan in competition with private plans, a “public option” which would be available only to a small minority of poor Americans currently without coverage. The Senate began considering its own resolution, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Nov. 21.
Republican Rep. Howard Coble—whose district encompasses Greensboro, N.C.—echoed much of the GOP’s opposition to the perceived high costs of health care reform under President Barack Obama.
“One of the main reasons was the total cost,” Coble said. “The debt at which we find ourselves now is troubling not only to me, but to most of my constituents back home.”
Although this may seem contrary to the poll’s findings, David Rohde, Ernestine Friedl professor of political science, said that poll results can be misleading.
“The kinds of numbers you get from polls like this about something as complex as health care and the public option depend a great deal on how you ask the question,” Rohde said.
Still, Hunter Bacot, director of the Elon University Poll, said that though results can fluctuate based on question wording and syntax, he believes that the poll’s questions were soundly constructed.
“We chose to go as broad and neutral as we could,” he said.
When it came time to vote, five of the eight N.C. Democratic congressmen seemed to mirror the poll’s findings by voting for the resolution.
“What this bill is mainly about is insurance reform, which is to give all Americans access to affordable coverage and to remove all discrimination and barriers to coverage,” said Rep. David Price, who represents Durham. “While [the resolution is] not perfect, and we’ll continue to work on it, it’s a very good basic proposal and I was proud to vote for it.”
But three Democratic congressmen voted against the resolution and against their party—Democratic Reps. Larry Kissell, Mike McIntyre and Heath Shuler. According to the Washington Post, all three Congressmen represent districts in which more than 20 percent of the population is currently without health insurance.
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McIntyre and Kissel were unavailable for comment, and their press secretaries, Haven Kerchner and Dain Mitchell, could not immediately be reached.
Although Shuler was also unavailable for comment, his press secretary, Doug Abrahms, said that the congressman voted against the resolution because he believed it did nothing to stem the rising costs of health care.
When asked about the Elon poll and the number of uninsured in Shuler’s district, Abrahms said that Shuler believes there is too much emphasis being placed on the public option and that “the public option actually is not going to cover that many workers.”
In a press release, Kissel said his main sticking point with the resolution was its proposed funding cuts to Medicare, the government’s current health insurance program for elderly citizens.
“While I believe comprehensive health care and insurance reform is necessary, I cannot vote for [the resolution] in its current form, which cuts $399 billion from Medicare,” he stated in the release.
Price, however, disputed this assertion.
“Saying that Medicare in general is hurt is just not accurate,” Price said. “The bill strengthens Medicare.”