As the health care debate on Capitol Hill reaches its peak, many of the strongest opponents of an overhaul represent districts with the largest percentage of people who don't have health insurance, an NPR analysis shows.
Of the 100 congressional districts with the highest percentage rates of uninsured people, 53 are represented either by Republican lawmakers who are fighting the overhaul, or by conservative Blue Dog Democrats who have slowed down and diluted the overhaul proposals.
One leader of the Blue Dog effort is Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas, the coalition's chief health care negotiator. His 4th Congressional District covers southern Arkansas, a rural area with a high poverty rate. In his district, more than one out of five residents under age 65 lacks health insurance. That's 30 percent higher than the national average.
"Many of those individuals who would need a public health care option are those who are not likely to be able to take two hours out of their day to go to a public event like that town hall," says Kevin Motl, a history professor at Ouachita Baptist University who attended the meeting. "They were too busy earning hourly wages and trying to keep roofs above their children's heads. Those voices are not going to be present in that discourse."
New data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that 17 percent of Americans under age 65 now go without health insurance. It's a basic truth of political analysis that low-income residents — that is, those most likely to be uninsured — are less likely than middle-class people to attend town meetings and less likely to vote. To state the obvious, the poor are also less likely to make campaign contributions.
Read it all or listen at NPR