Paul Krugman notes that Republicans are running fewer anti-Obamacare ads as the 2014 election nears, perhaps realizing that they have less red meat to throw to their followers now that many of their dire predictions about the law have been shown to be histrionic and grossly exaggerated.
No, there aren’t any death panels; no, huge numbers of Americans aren’t losing coverage or finding their health costs soaring; no, jobs aren’t being killed in vast numbers. A few relatively affluent, healthy people are paying more for coverage; a few high-income taxpayers are paying more in taxes; a much larger number of Americans are getting coverage that was previously unavailable and/or unaffordable; and most people are seeing no difference at all, except that they no longer have to fear what happens if they lose their current coverage.
The good news has continued to flow in for Obamacare. It met its projected goals for enrollment, drove down the insurance rate, and did not lead to a drastic increase in health insurance costs. Millions of people with pre-existing conditions or who couldn’t previously afford health insurance can now gain access to it. Young adults can stay on their parents’ plans longer. By most measurements, the law is meeting its goals.
Yet will Democrats ever benefit from this? For some reason, the law continues to be unpopular. Annie Lowrey explains why:
ne major reason is that nobody has “Obamacare,” a point made by the political scientist Jonathan Bernstein and others. People like Joshua have Medicaid. Others have subsidized private insurance purchased through a state exchange, like Kynect or the Arkansas Health Connector. Even those who went through the federal site to obtain insurance never saw the phrases “Affordable Care Act” or “Obamacare,” Bernstein points out. As such, anecdotes about the newly uninsured failing to understand it was Obamacare that got them insurance abound.
Obama himself has referenced the fact that many still don’t know what’s in the law. He ticked off a laundry list of provisions at a speech in April. “These are all benefits that have been taking place for a whole lot of families out there, many who don’t realize that they’ve received these benefits,” he added.
There’s statistical evidence that confusion about Obamacare continues to dampen support for the law, too. Surveys continue to find that the Medicaid expansion is more popular than the Affordable Care Act. The subsidies to help families buy health insurance are more popular than the Affordable Care Act. The provision allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance plans for longer is more popular than the Affordable Care Act. Even Republicans support the major coverage provisions of the law — just not the law itself. “If the public had perfect understanding of the elements that we examined, the proportion of Americans who favor the bill might increase from the current level of 32 percent to 70 percent,” one team of researchers found.
It’s become a common refrain in GOP circles to claim that the success of Obamacare’s enrollment numbers are anything but due to the number of insurance cancellations in 2013 outnumbering new signups on the exchange. While there aren’t strong data on the number of cancellations due to Obamacare vs the typical churn in the individual insurance market, several health care wonks have offered analysis saying that cancellations due solely to Obamacare were minimal at best. This hasn’t stopped the GOP from continuing to inflate cancellation numbers in order to negate any positive effect Obamacare has had on insurance signups. The Washington Post fact checkers slapped down one Congressmen in particular who conveniently went silent when asked to provide numbers to back up his claims:
Members of Congress have a responsibility to be factual and accurate, especially when speaking to constituents about federal policies. But as far as we can tell, in at least two instances Huelskamp simply invented his claim that “numbers” exist showing that “there are more people uninsured today in Kansas” since the health-care law was implemented. Not only are there no up-to-date data, but the available figures concerning young adults and exchange enrollments provide good evidence that the law has led to a decrease in the number of uninsured.
Huelskamp can be as big as critic of the law as he wants, but he’s not entitled to conjure phony facts out of thin air.
I think Democrats will have an easier time now. And I think the GOP’s Obamacare obsession is going to start looking more and more strained and untenable. We’re already seeing signs of that in Senate races in Arkansas, Michigan, New Hampshire, and North Carolina. But I don’t think Republicans are going to switch scripts any time soon, both because conservatives won’t let them, and for the more fundamental reason that they don’t have any other scripts lying around.
And they may not need to. Their map is good! But if Obamacare recedes as an issue, and the projections start looking less auspicious for them, they might start wishing that they hadn’t staked everything on a single issue, the success or failure of which rests largely outside of their control.
— Republicans Have a Good Map. That Doesn’t Mean Obamacare’s a Winning Issue.
With all the recent good news on how Obamacare is meeting and even exceeding enrollment projections (along with the CBO report predicting it’ll cost $100 billion less than previously predicted), some liberal pundits are encouraging Democratic candidates and PACs to go on the offensive and not only defend their Obamacare support, but to attack their Republican opponents on their resistance to Medicaid expansion and their promise to return us to a world of pre-existing conditions, lifetime caps on payouts, and recision. Well, at least one Democrat has heeded their advice and released this ad:
A familiar adage in GOP circles is that though millions of Americans have signed up for health insurance under Obamacare, there’s still a net loss in those insured because of so-called “cancelations” in plans. But a new RAND survey shows that not only is there a net increase in those insured, the percentage of uninsured Americans is dropping dramatically:
Washington has been tracking enrollment in Obamacare’s exchanges and, less precisely, in Medicare. The Rand study uses a nationally representative sample to track vastly more data: They know roughly how many people were buying insurance from their employers, from insurers, and much more. They also know how many people were losing insurance, either through cancellations, or because employers were dropping them, or because they just stopped paying premiums.
Add all the gains and all the losses together and you get Rand’s bottom line: 14.5 million people gained coverage, 5.2 million people lost coverage, and so the net change since 2013 was 9.3 million people getting health insurance.
Nationwide, Obamacare could ultimately be responsible for registering anywhere from 3 to 7 million voters—potentially over 10% of the total number of eligible voters who aren’t registered today—over the next eight years.
“We think it’s a huge opportunity to reach people,” Sarah Brannon of Project Vote, which worked on the California settlement, said of the health care law.
Here’s why: Under the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which aimed to boost voter registration, people applying for public assistance—as well as DMV customers—must be offered the chance to register to vote. That means every state insurance exchange like California’s, as well as the federal exchange, will need to ask people whether they want to register. Even those people who end up getting covered via Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion or through other parts of the law, rather than through the private market, will still be offered the chance to register to vote.
— Obamacare helping millions register to vote
Health insurance has expanded. More than 5 million Americans have signed up for coverage through federal and state marketplaces; millions have been determined eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program; and 3 million young adults gained insurance through their parents’ coverage. Even more compelling than statistics are the letters hard-working Americans are sharing with the president. Their unscripted and private testimonials are building a lasting record of the life-changing—and often lifesaving—impacts the ACA is having. One woman from Colorado shared what the peace of mind of having coverage meant to her. “After using my new insurance for the first time, you probably heard my sigh of relief from the White House,” she wrote to President Obama. “I felt like a human being again. I felt that I had value.”
— The Affordable Care Act Is Working