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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

En Español |Some older Missourians worry that the Affordable Care Act is socialized medicine, as is practiced in Brazil and Norway, where universal health care is paid for by the government. (It's not. Insurance will still be provided by private companies.)

A 60-year-old Medicaid patient in St. Louis waves his health benefits card proudly, saying he's pleased the new law will provide such a card to everyone. (It won't. He's confusing Medicaid with universal health care.)

Missouri voters over 50 have strong opinions of the health care law. Yet most also acknowledge that they still don't completely understand what it means for them and the 14 percent of Missourians who are uninsured. And in a state where more than 70 percent of voters approved a largely symbolic ballot referendum barring the law's health insurance mandate, these issues have stirred particularly heated debate.

This November, Missourians may have the opportunity to vote on whether the state should be allowed to set up the law's health care exchanges without the express approval of voters.

The federal law requires everyone to have health insurance by 2014 — subsidies will help them do so — or pay a tax. It's President Obama's signature achievement. GOP contender Mitt Romney signed a similar law when he was Massachusetts governor but has pledged to undo "Obamacare'' on day one if he is elected.

Many Americans have trouble "separating the politics from the policy" regarding the controversial law, said Thomas McAuliffe, policy analyst for the nonpartisan Missouri Foundation for Health. "People like what's in the law. They just don't like the law itself," he said.

Shannon Lemp, 54, is among the huge class of skeptics. "I think of it as socialized medicine," said Lemp, an event planner married to an attorney. Lemp and some of her neighbors in the tony St. Louis suburb of Ladue worry that Americans will not be able to choose their own doctors, or that they will have to wait a long time for treatment of serious illnesses. "We don't really believe we'll be able to keep our own health insurance," she said.

Next: Missourians leery of government-controlled health care. »

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