Opinion

The Great Debate

2014: Another election about Obamacare

By Bill Schneider
December 23, 2013

Here we go again.

2014 will be the third election in a row in which Obamacare is the central issue. The Affordable Care Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law in March 2010, contributed to a fierce voter backlash against Democrats in November 2010. After the Supreme Court upheld the law in June 2012, the issue seemed to be settled by Obama’s re-election that November.

But no.

The botched Obamacare rollout this year has again thrust the issue to the top of the political agenda. Republicans are counting on opposition to Obamacare to propel them to a majority in the Senate next year. A conservative group is already running an ad attacking Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) for supporting Obamacare: “Next November, if you like your senator, you can keep her. If you don’t, you know what to do.”

2013 came to a close with two big political stories. The government shutdown in October was immensely damaging to Republicans. So damaging that House Republicans defied their conservative base and voted for a compromise budget deal last week. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) attacked the Tea Party, accusing them of pushing congressional Republicans “into this fight to defund Obamacare and shut down the government.” A fight Boehner said all along was unwinnable.

The message was, “No more shutdowns.” Republicans didn’t want to step on the second big political story, one immensely damaging to Democrats: the rollout of Obamacare.

While both parties were damaged by the year-end stories, the headline in the Washington Post last week was, “Obama suffers most from year of turmoil, poll finds.” The Democrats’ Obamacare disaster trumped the Republicans’ shutdown disaster.

The problems with Obamacare are likely to continue into 2014. The problem is that the young and the healthy are not signing up in anything close to the numbers needed to subsidize insurance coverage for the old and the sick. The incentives are not strong enough. Young people are convinced they are immortal. They don’t expect to get sick. Or to have a car crash — the leading health risk for young people.

The law says they have to spend $100 or $200 a month for health insurance or else pay a fine. How much is the fine? For the first year, $95. When do they have to pay it? In April 2015. Which sounds to them like the distant future.

Many young people will be willing to risk the fine and use the insurance money to buy a car. Or go to Cancun and party their brains out.

The New York Times and CBS News just polled uninsured Americans and found them highly skeptical of the Affordable Care Act. Among the uninsured, 53 percent say they disapprove of the new law. The poll found about the same disapproval among the insured (51 percent). Only a third of the uninsured believe the new law will actually help them.

There’s another problem. Many small businesses are being allowed to extend their employees’ current health insurance plans through next year. In October 2014 — a month before the election — insurance companies will notify those employers of the new premiums they will have to pay under Obamacare. In many cases, those premiums will go up. Way up. They may have gone up even without Obamacare, but any rate increases will be blamed on Obamacare. As one expert put it to Politico, “You own all the changes when you put in new rules.”

The Affordable Care Act does require more comprehensive coverage than many small business plans now provide. Companies that have younger and healthier workers will have to share the cost of covering firms with an older workforce. The Obama administration promised that the vast majority of workers with employer-based insurance would not be affected. That is almost certainly true. But the minority who see their premiums shoot up next year will complain. Loudly.

It’s the same thing that happened with people who had their individual policies canceled this year because they did not meet the Obamacare standards. Those people claimed they were betrayed because of Obama’s 2010 pledge, “If you like your insurance plan, you will keep it.”

“The way I put that forward unequivocally,” the president acknowledged last month, “ended up not being accurate.”

Very few Americans actually faced cancellations — because very few Americans purchase individual coverage. But those who were affected complained. Loudly. And those complaints made a powerful impression on the larger electorate.

Millions of Americans are benefiting from Obamacare. They are getting health insurance they could never get before. The working poor in many states are becoming eligible for the expanded Medicaid program. A lot of people, particularly women and older Americans, will see their coverage expanded and their premiums go down.

They are not being heard from, however. In the Times-CBS poll, only a third of the uninsured said that, when they evaluate their member of Congress, his or her position on Obamacare “will matter a lot.”

The Democrats’ challenge is to rally people who are being helped. That will not be an easy task. Satisfied people rarely make a lot of noise in politics — unless they feel threatened. The Democrats’ task in 2014 will be to dramatize the threat that a Republican Congress would pose to Obamacare.

The Affordable Care Act was passed nearly four years ago. But the struggle is still far from over.

 

PHOTO: President Barack Obama addresses his year-end news conference in the White House briefing room in Washington, December 20, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Comments
7 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Many young people will choose to pay their student loans – not buy a car or party in Cancun. Why not give young people some credit for sense? Why not pay a fine of $95 in order to pay a student loan?

This so-called “law” is not really a “LAW” with all the exemptions, waivers, delays, special deals and is unrecognizable. No wonder people don’t know which end is up when the administration can make changes any time it sees fit. Who knows what the next change will be and who will be affected by that change?

Posted by AZreb | Report as abusive
 

It will be difficult to sustain the current state of unhappiness over Obamacare all the way thru November ’14. So even though the ACA will be a negative for the Dems, I don’t think it will cause them to lose the Senate – a pick up of 5 seats to tie will be very hard to do – I see GOP picking up 2 – 3 net seats and holding on to the House by a big margin – enough to stalemate almost everything the Prez wants to accomplish, including packing the Supreme Court.

Posted by willich6 | Report as abusive
 

The mid term elections will be about the middle class and working families.

It will primarily be about a living wage and economic mobility. Other issues will be creating a better civilization through comprehensive immigration reform, mental health, and environmental action.

Republicans will motivate their base with gun rights and abortion. As with the ACA, they are clueless or unwilling to present new ideas other than tax reductions for the wealthy and business, and deregulation.

Posted by Flash1022 | Report as abusive
 

“Millions of Americans are benefiting from Obamacare. They are getting health insurance they could never get before. The working poor in many states are becoming eligible for the expanded Medicaid program. A lot of people, particularly women and older Americans, will see their coverage expanded and their premiums go down.”

And Millions are losing the plans they were PRIOMISED they could keep if they liked them. Millions are paying more for coverage due to the ACA.

The liberal bias in this article is enough to make one puke.

The problem for the democrats from a political perspective is that the people who are going to be helped by the law are for the most part; overwhelmingly Obama voters anyway.

The other problem is that this law was sold on a pack of lies. There was NOT supposed to be ANY losers under this law. Just watch this quote from Pelosi on meet the press. EVERYONE was going to pay lower costs and get better quality of care!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmg9vHCiJ eM

When the cancellation notices and rate hikes are sent in the fall of 2014.. WATCH OUT. The Dems thought 2010 was bad? You aint seen nothing yet…

Posted by pjkesq | Report as abusive
 

Bill Schneider needs to do some more research. Where does he get the idea that it costs only $100 to $200 a month? The cheapest plans are $400 per month. Sure millions are getting healthcare they couldn’t afford, but now millions more are paying more for healthcare than they can afford to subsidize the previous group. And to Mr. Schneider, 5.9 Million is “very few” as the number of Americans whose insurance was canceled. I wouldn’t call that very few, and that is only because the corporate mandate was delayed by an unconstitutional presidential fiat where the Congressional Budget Office estimates that another 75 million will have their policies canceled next year. If Mr. Schneider needs some help researching his next US healthcare story, he can email me. Reuters has my address.

Posted by weather3014 | Report as abusive
 

Bill Schneider is one of the most obvious partisans in the media. Millions lose their coverage and he describes that as “very few”. There are “very few” Americans who will see their premiums go down. I spoke with a service provider to my Company who has not had insurance for 10 years. She is in her early 60s and a cancer survivor. She went on the Exchange and found that the premium for coverage would be $3000 per month for her. She doesn’t qualify for a subsidy, but makes less than 80k per year. Paying half her income in premium payments is not realistic. Her response was “I’ll pay the penalty and continue to self-insure as I try to make it toward Medicare eligibility”.

Sorry Bill, but you can’t put lipstick on this pig like you try to do so often with other liberal policies.

Posted by FactCorrect | Report as abusive
 

$95 dollars? Read again – you clearly do not understand the structure of the penalty – it is $95, or a percentage – whichever is greater, but it is capped at the national average for a bronze plan.

Now – I already have insurance, but it is not on the CCIIO’s list of MEC-compliant policies. There is no way for me to get my policy onto the list of MEC-compliant policies because my insurer has no interest in that. This is because I live in a split nationality household and reside partially overseas and partially in country.

We believe that the u.s. health care system is the ‘system of last resort’ and until Jan 6th 2014 our insurance solution included catastrophic coverage in the u.s. to augment our primary insurance, which covered us both in the u.s. (poorly) as well as at home (awesomely – 90%, easy, end of story).

So, in addition to $300/mo for insurance I was paying, I now have to pay an additional $700/mo for insurance that only covers me part time, does not cover me in my health care home, and provides no value. Given that I just cashed in my 401k to start a company, that *extra* $700/mo is a burden.

And because we are required to ‘estimate income in the future’ and I am in a point of transition, I have absolutely no idea if I can spare that $700/mo – so I can say, well, right now I have no income so I get medicaid. I now have medicaid, in addition to my insurance, because of the bureaucratic structure of MEC-compliance hiding in the lies told by the congress and president – namely “if you have insurance you can keep it”

The result of this is that it averages me 16-20 hours of paperwork to go to the doctor and it is illegal (OAR 410-120-1280) for me to pay cash to see a doctor for any services, at all.

Thanks to the ACA, even though I have insurance, I can now face prison time for going to the doctor. I’d be willing to pay the penalty (not $95, that’s just wrong) minus my insurance cost, but I do not think that I should pay for insurance, and pay the penalty, and be prohibited from seeking medical care. I am in some kafkaesque ACA hell, and have been since October of 2013.

The IRS’s official answer to me was “we don’t understand the law well enough to talk to individuals yet – talk to us in 2015′

Thanks Obamacare! Thanks for trying to deceive the people further mr schneider.

Posted by noscreen32768 | Report as abusive
 

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