BLUE COLLAR CATHOLICS FEEL IMPACT OF RISING HEALTHCARE COSTSApril 26, 2012
As part of our Target Voter Series, Resurgent Republic sponsored four focus groups among Blue Collar Catholic voters in Cleveland, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. These respondents all voted for President Obama in 2008, but are undecided on the generic presidential ballot today. Following are key highlights reflecting on Blue Collar Catholics’ views on health care reform, rising medical costs and the religious mandate.
At best, the participants are mixed toward ObamaCare, expressing concern over rising premiums and support for adding coverage of preexisting conditions. Just as the rising cost of food and gas shapes their opinion on the economy, their perspective on health care is primarily determined by the financial impact on their bottom line. When asked for a top line impression of the Affordable Health Care Act, a Pittsburgh man found the title quite ironic. “It’s not too affordable. I can’t afford it, and I make a decent living. But still, it will cost me $650 to $700 a month, right out of my paycheck. That’s not affordable.” Several respondents gave examples of how premiums have increased since health care reform was passed. Despite frustration over costs, the participants approve of covering preexisting conditions and providing coverage for children ages 26 and under. Yet it is clear that those benefits are secondary to their overwhelming concern about the cost of health care. Several participants cited examples of employers not hiring new workers, not extending hours for part timers, dropping health care or raising costs to workers all as a result of ObamaCare.
In addition to their concern about the rising cost of health care, the participants hold very little affinity for the individual mandate. Participants strongly object to being forced by the federal government to purchase health care, and many worry that such a policy will impact their current health care coverage. One Pittsburgh woman said, “They want it to affect everybody. I have health care and pay reasonable rates. I don’t feel like I should be forced to take what they want. If I don’t need it, I don’t think I should be forced.”
When focused on the details, support for the religious mandate weakens, although the primary concern for these working class voters is improving their own financial security. The participants are generally uninformed about the religious mandate ObamaCare imposes on religious organizations that are morally or conscientiously opposed to birth control, abortion, or sterilization. Many of the participants were not aware that the Catholic Church would be forced to provide insurance coverage for procedures that are in direct conflict to its teachings. After having the issue more clearly explained, including that many religious hospitals are self-insured, the participants support for the measure weakened. This issue was more relevant with the regular churchgoers in Pittsburgh, but overall, it is another example of how their own financial insecurity is their dominant concern. The impact of this debate is likely to take place outside of the news headlines and with a demographic not living paycheck to paycheck.