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Sargent: Obamacare fades as a major campaign issue
First Published Aug 06 2014 11:40 am • Last Updated Aug 06 2014 03:36 pm

Gallup finds that three of the largest drops in the rate of the uninsured just happened to take place in states with the hardest-fought Senate races:

"Arkansas and Kentucky lead all other states in the sharpest reductions in their uninsured rate among adult residents since the health-care law’s requirement to have insurance took effect at the beginning of the year. Delaware, Washington and Colorado round out the top five. All 10 states that report the largest declines in uninsured rates expanded Medicaid and established a state-based marketplace exchange or state-federal partnership."

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In Arkansas, the rate of uninsured dropped from 22.5 percent in 2013 to 12.4 percent now — a change of more than 10 percentage points.

In Kentucky, it dropped from 20.4 percent to 11.9 percent — a change of more than eight percentage points.

In Colorado, it dropped from 17 percent to 11 percent — a change of six percentage points.

The Kentucky example is particularly interesting. Remember, Mitch McConnell still regards the law that created this drop in the uninsured among his own constituents as a "disaster." Yet hundreds of thousands have signed up for coverage on the Kentucky exchange. Despite this, Alison Lundergan Grimes continues to avoid engagement on Obamacare. I get the arguments in favor of that strategy. Grimes wants to avoid getting drawn into Washington arguments that could sully what the campaign sees as her key advantage in this race: The contrast between Grimes’ newcomer status and McConnell’s decades inside the Beltway. But it really is too bad that the Affordable Care Act — or, at least the word "Obamacare," anyway — remains so toxic on some turf that Democrats can’t embrace this steep drop in uninsured in one of the most unhealthy regions in the country as a major policy success.

The Arkansas example is also interesting. Arkansas moved forward with its own version of the Medicaid expansion, which presumably helped bring that rate down, and it’s noteworthy that the GOP candidate for Senate — Rep. Tom Cotton — has tended to serve up word salad when asked where he stands on it.

These data help tell a larger story: The fading of Obamacare as an issue in many states, including those with hard-fought Senate races. To be sure, Democrats could lose control of the Senate. But it is becoming increasingly accepted that even if that happens, Obamacare might not be a major reason why — the makeup of the map and the economy could prove far more important in determining the outcome.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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