From “Older Voters Are Complicating the GOP’s Plans for Health Care” by Ronald Brownstein and Leah Askarinam at The Atlantic:
An Atlantic analysis shows that House Republicans who have expressed opposition to the GOP’s replacement plan are heavily concentrated in districts where the median age, the number of seniors, or both exceed the national average. Because President Trump ran so well in older and often blue-dollar districts, that dynamic produces a paradoxical result: Most of the House Republicans expressing hesitation about the bill, whose passage Trump supports, represent districts he carried. In most of those seats, Trump improved on the performance of 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
That unexpected pattern underscores the GOP’s continuing difficulty reconciling its traditional small-government ideology with the material needs of the older and lower-income whites increasingly central to its coalition. While retaining the traditional conservative skepticism of programs targeted at the poor, those older whites have departed from conservative dogma by consistently expressing support in polling for government programs—from Medicare to Social Security—that they believe would benefit their own families. As the House’s legislative struggle suggests, it appears the ACA may be joining that list.
Likewise, in a recent ABC/Washington Post national survey, over three-fourths of adults 50 and older opposed allowing states to opt out from the ACA’s nationwide protections for insurance consumers with preexisting health conditions, as the latest version of the GOP bill allows. The same survey found three-fifths of adults in that age range opposed the bill’s provision allowing states to opt out of providing a menu of essential health benefits, such as covering substance abuse. Those sentiments loom over the pattern of opposition and hesitation on the bill that’s detailed in an unofficial whip count published by The Hill.
It appears that many seniors, if not most of them, are embracing a more prudent brand of conservatism with respect to health care reform. No doubt many are factoring in Trump’s erratic behavior and policy pronouncements into their reluctance to grant him carte blanche on Obamacare repeal.
The thing is, these seniors vote, even in miderm elections, and their Republican representatives know it. As Askarinam and Brownstein note, further,
…Over three-fourths of the bill’s declared House Republican opponents represent districts older than the national average. That significantly exceeds the nearly three-fifths of all House Republicans who represent such greying districts, according to Atlantic calculations. (Updates to the whip count published Tuesday morning did not significantly change any of the patterns described here.)
…Another list of opposed and undecided House Republicans produced by NBC yielded similar results. Among the 20 members NBC listed as opposed, four-fifths represented districts older than the national average and three-fourths held seats with a larger-than-average number of seniors. Of the 16 NBC identified as undecided, three-fourths held seats where the median age exceeded the national average; the same share held districts with an above-average share of seniors.
Republican representatives of these districts who support the latest version of Trumpcare are running a very significant risk of losing their seats next year, while those who play it safe and decline the Trumpcare kool-aid stand a better chance of being re-elected. The deepening doubts about Obamacare replacement held by senior voters who are living on modest budgets will further undermine the credibility of Trump and the Republicans. This could be the first major wedge dividing the GOP’s senior supporters, and Democrats could realize the benefits.