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Election 2012: Battleground Report

50-Plus Voters and the Health Care Law

Missourians debate the pros and cons of the Affordable Care Act

Others feel a bit more sanguine about the health care law, especially if they have felt the law's early benefits, such as the closing of the "doughnut hole" in Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. Bob Case, a 62-year-old self-employed St. Louis blues musician, likes the fact that the law allows him to keep his college-age son on his family insurance policy. "It's a big concern for all of us," Case said.

Mabel Barnes, 64, a housekeeper in downtown St. Louis, admitted she doesn't know the details of the law, but she's hoping that it could help her get cheaper health insurance than what she receives through her employer. Barnes is a fan of President Obama but wishes the administration had done more to inform people about how their lives would change under the new law. "I want to know — do I keep my insurance? Why didn't [Obama] explain it all before?'' Barnes said.

McAuliffe, the policy analyst, has been traversing Missouri, holding more than 160 informational events to explain the law to residents. And, he reports, older voters are curious, agitated and anxious — either exasperated over their neighbors' reluctance to sign on to something meant to provide health coverage to almost everyone, or leery of a law they say puts their private health in the hands of government bureaucrats.

"I don't see how it's a contentious issue if everybody is going to have some kind of insurance," said Evelyn Gillespie, 64, as she sparred with friends and colleagues at OASIS, a nonprofit group that operates health and learning programs for people over 50. African Americans such as herself are particularly at risk for poor or infrequent health care, added Gillespie, a retired health and physical education teacher who volunteers at OASIS. And the cost? "You pay for it no matter what way you go, through Medicare or taxes," she said.

Bob Kremer, 57, a retired UPS employee, said he's worried about cost and basic freedoms. "A lot of people don't want the government involved in everything," he said. Meanwhile, "the insurance companies will be in hog heaven," since the law creates so many new customers for them, he said. And Ann Eggebrecht, a retired, 66-year-old office manager, has some concerns about cost as well, noting her insurance deductibles are already high. "We can't pay for everybody to have everything," she said.

But, she added, with an eye on Election Day, "Let's see how it's going to play out."

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