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Two cheers for Obamacare

Posted in: National politics
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Yesterday, Rick Santorum stood on the steps of the Supreme Court and said November’s presidential election will hinge on health care. John Kerry agreed. He told the Herald he’s daring the GOP to run against health care in November. The back and forth makes for good copy, especially with the three-day marathon Supreme Court arguments in the background. But two recent national polls indicate that health care won’t be the blockbuster wedge issue the GOP expects it to be.

The New York Times leads its coverage of its own poll today by saying that most voters oppose at least some part of the 2010 federal health care overhaul. Thirty-eight percent of respondents to the Times poll support repealing the entire entire law. But a closer look at the Times poll indicates that those numbers appear stronger than they really are.

An overwhelming majority of people the Times surveyed support the key coverage elements of the 2010 health care statute -- coverage for patients with preexisting conditions, stronger coverage for senior citizens’ prescription drugs, and longer coverage periods for children under their parents’ health plans.

A national poll Suffolk University released last night contained similar findings: Just one-third of the people Suffolk surveyed want to repeal the 2010 health care law. Only one-third of people Suffolk polled say they’re worse off now than before the health care law passed. The Suffolk poll also indicates strong support for federal safety net programs in general, with only 30 percent supporting the concept of cutting entitlement programs to reduce the national debt.

Taken together, the two polls indicate that Democrats have an easier political road ahead of them than Republicans do. Republicans who are running against the 2010 health care law are finding the individual mandate to be a political lightning rod, but the mandate is the financing mechanism that enables insurance companies to cover the portions of the law that enjoy broad political support. Democrats are beginning a coordinated campaign to tie the two together, which is why the Obama campaign store is now hawking T-shirts that proclaim “I like Obamacare.” (For the foul-mouthed Joe Biden fans out there, there’s this option.)

“I think when Americans learn the difference between the benefit of having coverage and how it lowers costs, it’s like insuring your house,” Kerry tells the Herald today. “This is not complicated. It’s made complicated by politicians who pursue an ideological agenda, which is why I’m glad Mitt Romney, when he was here, passed health care. I’m sorry today he’s running away from it, but this is going to be a great debate.”

                                                                                                                        --PAUL MCMORROW


BEACON HILL

The Massachusetts Restaurant Association is one step closer to overturning the part of a 2008 measure that prohibited doctors from accepting anything of value from drug companies, including meals at restaurants.

Many politicians are considering a run for state Sen. Steven Baddour’s seat, the Eagle-Tribune reports. The Methuen Democrat says his decision to step down and take a job with the law firm of McDermott, Will and Emery had nothing to do with the US Justice Department’s investigation of the state Probation Department, where his wife works. The Lowell Sun reports that Baddour’s departure could allow Jennifer Flanagan of Leominster to move up in the Senate’s ranks.

Senate leaders seek to pass legislation dealing with state utility costs, the Lowell Sun reports. NECN reports that the bill is a green energy course correction. CommonWealth examines some of the more controversial provisions.

A voting reform bill that would let 16- and 17-year-olds “pre-register” to vote advances on Beacon Hill, CommonWealth reports.

CASINOS

A report from Wynn Resorts estimates that a Foxborough casino would generate up to 15,000 additional vehicle trips per day.

The town of Plainville isn’t ready to start negotiating a local impact agreement with the owners of the Plainridge Racecourse because it has no blueprint to work off of, and because the state gambling commission the town is turning to for help hasn’t been staffed yet.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua’s former chief of staff testifies for the third time before a grand jury, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Quincy Mayor Tom Koch is trying to shutter the free lunch program at the Church of the Presidents, among other programs, over the perception that crime caused by the poor, homeless, and addicted who come for services could affect the $1.6 billion Quincy Center redevelopment project.

The state has rejected all seven bids to redevelop the Middlesex Jail in Cambridge, saying all the prospective developers had failed to include required financial disclosures.

ELECTION 2012

Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Republican from Maine, praises Sen. Scott Brown for his bipartisan spirit and leadership on women’s issues, WBUR reports.  Here is the Globe take on Brown’s play for women’s vote.  UMass Boston political scientist Maurice Cunningham writes for CommonWealth that Massachusetts Democrats underestimate Brown at their peril.

The Atlantic travels deep, deep inside Rick Santorum’s alternate reality. The New York Times notes Santorum’s inability to secure support from Catholics.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A123 Systems of Waltham, which has received hefty state and federal support, is forced to spend $55 million to fix faulty batteries, the Boston Globe reports.

Boston Mayor Tom Menino will unveil plans today for a $5.5 million innovation center in the new Seaport District.  The building will house a restaurant and meeting space for entrepreneurs to hold meetings and host business events.

A bill to raise the minimum wage to $10 in Massachusetts could come up for a vote in the state Senate after clearing a legislative committee.

EDUCATION

Kumble Subbaswamy, the provost of the University of Kentucky, has been named the chancellor of UMass Amherst.

HEALTH CARE

Day One at the Supreme Court is over, with the individual mandate that is at the heart of the federal health care law the focus for today.  For a round-up of coverage and background to the case, the SCOTUS blog is one-stop shopping.

The Commonwealth Fund releases what it calls the first-ever ranking of the top 300 health care markets in the country based on 43 indicators and while Massachusetts cities rank in the top of insurance scores, no Bay State market cracks the top 10 overall. Via U.S. News & World Report.

TRANSPORTATION

The delivery of 75 new commuter rail cars to the MBTA is a year and half behind schedule, the Globe reports.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Work has begun along New Bedford’s fish piers to install shore power for boats to reduce diesel emissions when the vessels are tied up.

Planners are trying to find the money to build a 22-mile bike trail from Taunton to Fall River.

The unusually warm March days followed by the sudden return of cold temperatures could spell trouble for crops and flowers.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Keller@Large urges everyone to wait for all the facts before convicting the man who shot Trayvon Martin in Florida. Meanwhile, “hoodie” protests are popping up around the country demanding the arrest of the shooter, George Zimmerman.

MEDIA

The retraction of a radio story about working conditions in Chinese factories that supply Apple products attracts more online listeners in its first week than any episode ever produced by the program, This American Life, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports. Poynter raises questions about the no-comment stance of Ira Glass, the show’s host and executive producer.

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