Republicans who want to talk about the Affordable Care Act have two obvious goals: discrediting the whole law and somehow making it go away.
They don’t, however, want to talk about the more than 3 million Americans under 26 now on their parents’ coverage thanks to the law, how health care inflation has slowed dramatically since it was passed, or the millions and millions of working people who could end up “winners” because of the law.
Why would they?
After years of attempting to sabotage the law, the GOP received a huge gift in the bungled roll out of Healthcare.gov. Suddenly, their vague warnings of a “government takeover” of health care that would unleash a communist apocalypse were replaced by justifiable mockery of the site’s glitches and calls for Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius’ resignation. Of course, this required them to pretend that they actually wanted the website to work.
This week, many Republicans realized they were boxing themselves into a corner if the site ever began to work as promised, which is supposed to happen by the end of November. So the discussion has moved to the 10-15 percent of Americans in the individual insurance market, some of whom are losing their insurance — mostly because it doesn’t meet the need requirements set out by the Affordable Care Act. These are plans that were most likely to be rated “fair to poor,” according to the Center for Health Research and Transformation.
About half of these people will receive subsidies to purchase new plans and some may end up paying higher rates. The right-wing media has been searching for examples of people being screwed by these changes. But the nightmare scenarios they’ve been presenting keep turning out not to be that bad, upon just a little investigation.
This is happening despite the president’s assurances that “if you like your plan, you can keep it,” even though the Affordable Care Act does “grandfather” in all plans that were in effect up until when the law passed in 2010.
These are the things Republicans do want to talk about because they make either the law or President Obama look bad. And by focusing on these issues, they hope to distract from these five facts that are much more promising for the health care law.
Photo: Center for American Progress Action Fund via Flickr
People Want To Give It A Chance
Since the government shutdown, Obamacare’s poll numbers have improved slightly but are basically where they’ve been for a year. More people disapprove of the law than approve, but most Americans want to keep it or pass something more liberal.
A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that the public is even tolerant of the awful roll out of Healthcare.gov, with 37 percent saying “the website woes are a short-term technical problem that can be fixed” and another 30 percent saying it’s too soon tell. Less than a third of Americans, 31 percent, say that the problems “point to a longer-term issue with the law’s design that can’t be corrected.” Coincidentally, that’s about exactly the size of the GOP base.
These numbers confirm what the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent has been reporting: People want to give the law a chance.
“Conservatives continue to claim the public is on their side when it comes to the use of scorched earth tactics against Obamacare – as if the law is such an obvious catastrophe that of course huge numbers of voters will support getting rid of it entirely and will support whatever means are necessary to destroy it. But even now, at a moment when the public is fully aware that the law is running into serious implementation problems, that just isn’t proving to be the case.”
AFP Photo/Karen Bleier
If Canceling Insurance Is Bad, Repealing Obamacare Would Be A Nightmare
The right wing has been celebrating the cancelation notices they’re receiving. Meanwhile, they’re also noting that most of the people successfully signing up for Obamacare are getting fully subsidized Medicaid coverage, which is how Oregon reduced its uninsured population by 10 percent in just weeks.
All of the people receiving cancelation notices will get new plans if they can afford them; they cannot be denied based on pre-existing conditions. Republicans who would repeal or defund the law would not only cancel these plans, they would leave these people without coverage in a market where insurers could reject them.
The New Republic‘s Jonathan Cohn contrasts the policies Republicans propose versus their anti-Obamacare rhetoric in his post “Guess Who Really Wants to Take Away Your Insurance: Republicans“:
The real issue here isn’t simply Republican opportunism and hypocrisy—although, please, let’s not ignore that either. The real issue is about the true trade-offs of policy. Both sides offer them. With Obamacare, a small number of people lose their current insurance but they end up with alternative, typically stronger coverage. Under the plans Republicans have endorsed, a larger number of people would lose their current insurance, as people migrated to a more volatile and less secure marketplace. Under Obamacare, the number of Americans without health insurance at all will come down, eventually by 30 or 40 million. Under most of the Republican plans, the number of Americans without insurance would rise.
Photo: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr
We Don’t Have Real Sign-Up Numbers And That’s Not A Big Deal — Yet
If there’s one chart that’s soothing Obamacare supporters, it’s the one above.
Only .003 percent of those Massachusetts residents who signed up for Romneycare did so after a month. Only .07 percent had signed up by the end of the second month. People typically looked at the site an estimated 18 times before making a purchase.
This doesn’t make the continued problems with Healthcare.gov a non-issue, but most Americans probably wouldn’t be buying insurance right now anyway. If the site works when it’s promised, it should be ready to get people insured right when they’re ready to start buying.
Republicans Have Made The Problems They’re Complaining About Worse
Republicans have made sabotaging Obamacare such a priority that they almost crashed the global economy to do it. Instead, they just took $24 billion out our economy and slowed job growth.
This blatant attack on the law got the nation’s attention, but much of the sabotage of the law has been far more subtle, The National Journal‘s Alex Seitz-Wald reports:
The Affordable Care Act provided $67 million in federal grant money that went to local community groups to hire “navigators,” whose job it is to help applicants through the process of applying for insurance.
But whether by fees, background checks, tests, extra training, certifications, threats of civil penalties, or delays, Republican legislatures and officials in at least 17 states across the country have thrown up all manner of bureaucratic roadblocks in front of the program.
The officials say the regulations are necessary to protect consumers and their personal information, but health care reform advocates say the regulations, adopted only in states controlled by Republicans, are just part of a multi-pronged campaign to obstruct the implementation of the Affordable Care Act at every turn.
On top of the navigator restrictions, 27 states, mostly controlled by Republicans, decided against setting up their own health care exchanges and instead left it to Washington, while 15 have have decided not to expanded Medicaid.
Screenshot via Senator Ted Cruz’s YouTube channel
The Law’s Biggest Disadvantage Is Now Its Biggest Advantage
The 80 percent or so Americans under 65 who get their insurance from their employers will barely notice Obamacare. Their coverage will no longer have lifetime caps and will have to provide free preventive care — but basically nothing will change. And most people don’t want it to. It was the fear that they would be robbed of the insurance coverage that comes with their job that made many Americans suspicious of Obamacare and the “government takeover” and “death panels” the GOP promised.
While 14 percent of the America’s workforce will end up “winners” thanks to the law, about 3 percent of Americans who purchase their own health insurance will likely end up with new plans that cost more than their existing plan, according to the chart above that economist Justin Wolfers put together based on The New Yorker‘s Ryan Lizza’s interview with Romneycare/Obamacare advisor Jon Gruber. These percentages are loose estimates that attempt to clarify how only a few Americans will be negatively affected by the law, and nearly all of those will be people earning over 400 percent of the poverty level.
The law is designed to help the uninsured and those who purchase their own insurance to get and keep coverage. As the law continues to roll out with little impact on the vast majority of Americans while covering millions who have lacked coverage, the scare tactics that have worked so well so far will be laughed into history.