Why the Obamacare fight never ends

April 24, 2014

“I know every American isn’t going to agree with this law,” President Barack Obama said about the Affordable Care Act at his April 17 news briefing, “but I think we can agree that it’s well past time to move on.”

The Republican response? Same as General Anthony McAuliffe’s reply when the German army demanded that U.S. forces surrender at the Battle of the Bulge during World War Two: “Nuts!”

To be precise, after Obama said we can agree to move on, the National Republican Congressional Committee tweeted, “No, we can’t.”

With 8 million people signed up for Obamacare — and perhaps as many as 14 million covered by the law — repealing Obamacare looks like a lost cause. “This thing is working,” the president announced.

The fact that Obamacare is working should shut down the debate. But that’s not happening. Why not? Six reasons.

1. Conservatives will never agree that it’s working — no matter what the evidence shows. They’re ideologues. Ideologues believe that if something is wrong, it can’t possibly work. Even if it does work.

Remember when President George W. Bush announced a “surge” of U.S. troops in Iraq? That was in January 2007, right after voters repudiated the Iraq war in the 2006 midterm. Democrats were enraged. Bush was giving voters the finger.

But the 20,000 additional U.S. troops helped suppress the stunning spiral of violence in Iraq. Republicans insisted that the surge worked. Did that get antiwar Democrats to come around and support the war in Iraq? Not hardly. To them, the war was wrong. So the surge couldn’t possibly work. Of course it was temporary. But it lasted long enough for the U.S. to get out of Iraq. When U.S. troops left, the situation deteriorated. During Chuck Hagel’s Senate confirmation hearings for secretary of defense, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) went crazy trying to force Hagel to admit that the surge worked. The surge suppressed the violence, but it had absolutely no effect on U.S. opposition to the war.

2. Obamacare is supposed to be an entitlement program, like Social Security and Medicare. They’re universal programs: Everyone who pays into the system is entitled to benefit. You get Social Security and Medicare benefits whether or not you actually need the money. We bribe the middle class to support entitlements. That’s why they’re so expensive. And so popular.

A social welfare program targets benefits by need. Only people who can show they actually need the benefit get it. Under Obamacare, some people who have to purchase health insurance can’t afford it. They have to be subsidized. Those subsidies are being paid for with new taxes and higher premiums on people who can afford it. That’s a transfer of wealth.

Programs targeted by need have always been controversial. How can we be sure people don’t take advantage of the system? That the benefits only go to the “truly needy”? A lot of better off people don’t like the idea of paying subsidies to those who don’t think health insurance is important or who don’t take care of themselves. “It is viewed more as a social welfare program than a social insurance program,” longtime Obama adviser David Axelrod told the New York Times.

3. Throughout all the years of the healthcare debate — under both President Bill Clinton and Obama — one fact remained indisputable: a solid majority of Americans were satisfied with their healthcare and their health insurance. Seventy-one percent were satisfied with both in a 2009 CNN poll.

Obama promised several times in 2009, “If you like your healthcare plan, you’ll be able to keep your healthcare plan, period.” It was politically devastating when the Affordable Care Act went into effect last year and people started losing their insurance plans because they didn’t meet Obamacare standards. They believe the president lied to them.

True, only a small number of people with individual policies were affected by the cancellations. But as Representative David Price (D-N.C.) put it, “There was an ability to exploit the unknown, to exploit the fear of people losing something that they have. That wasn’t true with Social Security and Medicare.”

People’s biggest concern about Obamacare has always been that it will take what they already have and like and make it worse.

4. New insurance premiums for 2015 will be announced this fall — just in time for the midterm election. They will include new premiums for employers, who have to comply with the law starting next year.

Last week, the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation announced that insurance premiums under Obamacare are expected rise by less than 3 percent in 2015 — a smaller increase than expected. If that turns out not to be true, there could be a huge political backlash.

5. The groups that are benefiting most from Obamacare are not the groups most likely to vote in a midterm election. They include young people, poor people, minorities and single and working women. One thing that could get them out to vote is a serious Republican threat to end Obamacare. But that can’t happen as long as Obama is in the White House. Saving Obamacare will be a better issue for Democrats in 2016, when a new president will be elected, than in 2014. Especially if Republicans control both the House and Senate in 2016.

6. Republicans see the 2014 midterm as a national referendum on Obamacare. Obama urged Democrats to “forcefully defend and be proud of” the new law. But do Democrats really want to nationalize this year’s midterm election? Some Democratic strategists say yes, because that may bring out more Democrats who usually don’t vote in midterms.

But the key question this year is which party will control the Senate. The Washington Post lists 11 competitive Senate races. Nine of those races are in states carried by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.

Bringing out a presidential-level turnout in those states may not do Democrats any good.


PHOTO (TOP): House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) listens during his weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 26, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing

PHOTO (INSERT 1): A boy waits in line at a health insurance enrollment event in Cudahy, California, March 27, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

PHOTO (INSERT 2): President Barack Obama makes a point as he delivers remarks at Organizing for Action’s “National Organizing Summit” in Washington February 25, 2014. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

PHOTO (INSERT 3): Voters line up to cast their votes at Mid-City Nissan car dealer as Abbey Garcia crawls around the floor during the U.S. presidential election in Chicago, Illinois, November 6, 2012. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes


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Obamacare=Romneycare=the plan originally proposed by the Republican Heritage Foundation

Posted by QuietThinker | Report as abusive

Speaking of Iraq and the “surge:”

First, a surge is a PR name for sending in reinforcements. Second, sending in reinforcements was secondary to the US buying off the Sunni militants. Books like Aftermath by Nir Rosen make this clear.

So the anti-war people were right. Sending in reinforcements was not the cause of reduced violence.

Posted by Gaius_Baltar | Report as abusive

“Obamacare=Romneycare=the plan originally proposed by the Republican Heritage Foundation”

Then shouldn’t you be against? I thought all the ideas on the right benefit corporations and the 1%…

Posted by bates148 | Report as abusive

Good article. Seemed balanced. Unusual for today’s media.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

Wonder why the rich repubs didn’t just buy insurance company stock, as this is corporate welfare for ins companies. They got their way, the gubmint paying an insurance company instead of a Dr. or nurse.

Posted by yurgonetmyshet | Report as abusive

It’s premature to say Obamacare is working. It hasn’t been fully implemented yet because Obama keeps delaying mandates he thinks will be harmful to Dems seeking reelection.

Posted by moonhill | Report as abusive

Measuring ACA “success” by number of sign-ups is a chimera. There are no data on how many already had health insurance or on how many are actually paying premiums and are covered. And tens of millions are still uncovered, the said to be rationale of the law. Turning the health care system upside down, with millions losing policies they liked, employers cutting back hours to avoid the costs, and especially, untold billions of dollars unnecessarily spent on compliance, is not “success”. The lesson is that law of this magnitude should never be adopted on a strictly partisan basis while using legislative legerdemain (“reconciliation”). It is clear many Democrats had no idea what they were voting for and just wanted a victory on something called “health care reform”- regardless of what was actually in it – actions which were grossly irresponsible. It has now been over 4 years since passage and we are kept being told ACA will become popular. It clearly was rejected at the polls in 2010 and is likely to be similarly rejected in 2014. Moreover, ACA’s central premise – the individual mandate, upon which the entire law is largely based, is all but dead – the delays and the absence of any realistic enforcement mechanism doom the mandate, and eventually ACA itself.

Posted by SayHey | Report as abusive

Is that a vampire in the photo above ?

Posted by Regular | Report as abusive

“Same as General Anthony McAuliffe’s reply when the German army demanded that U.S. forces surrender at the Battle of the Bulge during World War Two: “Nuts!”

Really… a Nazi reference. Jeez-US

Posted by Phintelligence. | Report as abusive

Wouldn’t you need 300 million covered to show that it is working?

Posted by rocque | Report as abusive

As a previous poster pointed out, it was NOT a surge of 20,000 troops that reduced violence in Iraq, it was a surge of 20,ooo suit cases stuffed with money and given to the Sunnis that lessened the violence. Mr. Bill Schneider is an idiot and always has been one.

Posted by dochi1958 | Report as abusive


Posted by lysergic | Report as abusive

Boy, all the lying right wing nuts are out in full force! With not a single fact to back anything they say, but then they have their own fictional reality anyway.

Posted by dochi1958 | Report as abusive

Obamacare is merely the shifting of the burden of the uninsured from the Corporations and Government to the policy holders. As Obamacare will gnaw away at the incomes of doctors, there might be a bit of “change” happening. In the near future, they will speak of the legendary fight on K street between the hordes of Lobbyists throwing stacks of dollars to key persons… as the electorate is dulled by TV commercials and fast food into voting for the same over..and over..again…as they march into hospitals with their Medicaid cards.

Posted by rikfre | Report as abusive

What fool would/could claim it’s working (let alone call it a Success) prior to knowing what the unleashed Pre-Existing element brings?

At this point in time, only those with a political agenda.

It’s getting old.

Posted by SaveRMiddle | Report as abusive

I very much feel the author of this post is the kind of person who feels the ACA as an abstract concept – it hasn’t bitten them yet. Myself – i have insurance, but I got forced onto my oregon plan due to the obscure need for my wife, who lacks a uterus, to obtain maternity coverage to be fully MEC-compliant (the CCIIO/CMS/HHS department definition of ‘an acceptable policy’ – used by the IRS)

I didn’t have a choice – in addition to the $300 i pay a month for insurance, I have the option of paying the penalty, paying $700/mo more for insurance I do not want and can not use (it does not cover me in my health care home, which is not my tax home), or going with a state plan. I opted for the state plan.

That is why I wound up having police called to my door when i objected too strenuously to state law 410-120-1280, which makes it illegal for a doctor to receive payment from me while I have state insurance. This meant that I could not see a doctor, and pay cash, for a non-essential service (dermatology consultation for my adolescent daughter). Seriously – now that my wife, who lacks a uterus, has state compliant maternity coverage (in addition to our insurance), we are now blocked from paying cash to see doctors for conditions not on the state approved list of ‘things we’re allowed to see a doctor for’

I have logged almost 400 hours and spent nearly $1000 trying to get my health care situation fixed – to get some sanity into it. The battle has left me with blood pressure and stroke problems, and has gotten police called to my door because I’m super pissed at that deceitful *$(#*@)($@#()*$()#@ jack*$(#()$@s (plural) in DC who once said “if you have insurance, you can keep it”

I have insurance, I also, because of bureaucratic screwups (I’m in oregon) am on a state plan which denies me fundamental access to manage my health care. I have had the individual sovereignty of my family stolen by Merkley, Wyden, Bonamicci, and Obama – and I am PISSED OFF.

we need to get *every single politician supporting the ACA *out* of office* – they made a bad situation worse, the ACA entrenches a broken insurance system even deeper. REPEAL THE ACA, and *then* overhaul our health care system. We should not have the most expensive yet least accessible health care on the planet!

Posted by noscreen32768 | Report as abusive