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To Know Obamacare Is To Love It?

Bloomberg View Memo Pad Politics

To Know Obamacare Is To Love It?

Obamacare, Republicans

Oct. 8 (Bloomberg View) — A Gallup poll released Wednesday confirms what anyone paying attention knows: The Affordable Care Act’s successes aren’t changing negative views on “Obamacare,” including what people report about their personal experiences with health care. Yet the very characteristics that make Obamacare unpopular make the ACA safe from repeal.

The design of the law almost ensured a negative response from the public, given that the benefits that people like aren’t labeled “Courtesy of Obamacare.” No such confusion exists with the benefits delivered by, say, Social Security or Medicare, which is why most Americans are attached to those programs. Even though President Barack Obama’s’s mediocre approval ratings contribute to Obamacare’s bad poll numbers, most of the blame can be attributed to this structural aspect of the law, not the president.

Going to the numbers: 16 percent of Gallup’s respondents agreed that Obamacare has “helped” them and their family; 27 percent said the law had “hurt.” There’s a sharp partisan split: 40 percent of Republicans said the law “hurt,” and just 4 percent said it “helped.” Among Democrats, however, 27 percent said it “helped” and 15 percent said it “hurt.” To some extent that could reflect real disparities in health situations between Republicans and Democrats. But the bulk of the difference is almost certainly due to a combination of the general attitude toward Obama and information flows that make Democrats more likely to be exposed to good news (real and imagined) about the law and for Republicans to know about real and imagined problems with it.

The partisan divide doesn’t explain why relatively few people, regardless of political affiliation, feel the law has helped them, even though (as Jonathan Cohn points out in a good piece) there have almost certainly been more winners than losers.

The reason more people believe they’ve been hurt than helped is that peak awareness of the ACA’s benefits is already in the past, and it wasn’t very broad in the first place.


For one thing, even though the ACA may have moderated the rise in the cost of health care, even smaller price increases will be perceived as a harmful result of the law. There’s always variation in costs, and Republicans are going to publicize any spikes and Democrats aren’t going to trumpet increases, even when they are at or below trend. Indeed, Republicans will blame reform for every bad health care story, regardless of whether it’s ACA-related.

Another reason for the bad feeling is that there’s little reason for most consumers to connect health care benefits that they like with a law passed more than four years ago.

For example:

• How many young people who are able to to stay on their parents’ insurance know they have Obamacare to thank?

• How many people with (private!) insurance purchased through an exchange — either state exchanges such as Kynect or Covered California or the federal HealthCare.gov — know that those plans are part of “Obamacare”?

• How many people in expanded Medicaid know they are receiving Obamacare?

• How many people know Obamacare is the reason they don’t exceed annual or lifetime reimbursement caps?

I suspect that most people who enrolled this year after previously having been denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition know the ACA helped them. But many applying for health insurance for the first time probably don’t realize that their pre-existing conditions would have barred them from coverage before Obamacare. Fewer people are likely to credit Obamacare in the future because they won’t know there was a time when people were denied coverage.

None of these observations settles the question of whether the ACA is good or bad policy. But they do mean that anyone contemplating repeal should ignore the poll numbers and think hard about what consumers would say if the benefits they enjoy were to disappear. People on expanded Medicaid may not credit Obamacare, but they sure are going to want to know why their coverage went away. The same is true of people who obtained insurance through the exchanges or have benefited in other ways. Remember, just as Obama is now held responsible for any bad news on health care — even if there’s no connection to the ACA — the blame would shift to Republicans if they successfully push repeal, with or without a replacement.

AFP Photo/Karen Bleier



  1. Independent1 October 10, 2014

    “A Gallup poll released Wednesday confirms what anyone paying attention knows: The Affordable Care Act’s successes aren’t changing negative views on “Obamacare,”

    A Rasmussen Poll back in September said something similar – a majority of Americans continue to believe that ACA will not only increase their future premiums and costs but will also worsen their healthcare; when nothing could be further from the truth.

    Unfortunately, I believe it’s the GOP’s misinformation and lies that are continuing to give the majority of Americans a negative view of ACA. To combat that negative information, I wrote a letter to President Obama 3 weeks ago, suggesting that he use Primetime media outlets to give the nation a 9-months update on Obamacare successes. Unfortunately, so far nothing. So I’ve created a petition on White House dot gov, which asks that the Obama administration do more to get the word out about how successful ACA has actually already been.

    ACA is not only saving even red states like Arizona millions of dollars in reimbursement costs and making the Arizona hospitals more profitable, it is doing the same in many other states that have promoted Obamacare and extended Medicaid.

    I need NM posters’ help in getting my White House petition going. Th White House requires that a new petition get 150 signatures in order for a petition to be permanently posted on the White House’s blog board where hopefully it will gain signatures.

    So if you agree that President Obama and his administration do more to make America aware of what this article clearly points out is a problem, please check out my petition and sign it if you agree with it.

    Here’s the link to my petition (you may have to cut and paste it into your browser):


    1. dtgraham October 11, 2014

      I signed up Independent. I’m signature number 5, DG. I’ll certainly pass it along.

      1. Independent1 October 11, 2014

        Thanks for signing!! It’s greatly appreciated!

        1. BillP October 12, 2014

          I’m #12

          1. Independent1 October 13, 2014

            Thanks for signing. Looks like I have to do a bit more to start getting signers. We live in a very rural setting on an island where we can’t see no other house from ours so not a lot of neighbors or local friends to help spread the word.

          2. BillP October 13, 2014

            Have you tried Facebook or other social media? I’ll send the link to people I know will respond to it. Many this will help people understand how good the ACA can be.

          3. Independent1 October 14, 2014

            I haven’t gotten into Facebook and Twitter so I’ve sent the link to some friends and family via emails. But thanks for the suggestions.

    2. Mikey7a October 11, 2014

      Signed and shared Indy, I was #10 MB.

      1. Independent1 October 11, 2014

        Thanks for signing!!

      2. omgamike October 12, 2014

        I was #11.

    3. hicusdicus November 1, 2014

      Oh barf!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      1. Independent1 November 1, 2014

        That’s what generally happens when you’re high on weed!!!

        1. hicusdicus November 2, 2014

          If that is what happens you need to quit smoking weed.

  2. Dominick Vila October 11, 2014

    The negative impression that so many Americans have of the Affordable Care Act has absolutely nothing to do with this legislation, albeit for the fact that, like every other major program, changes are and will be needed as we learn more about its strengths and weaknesses.
    The opinion that so many Americans have of the ACA is influenced, in part, by ideology and an overt hatred of President Obama, but most importantly because of the failure of the administration to articulate the benefits of this program in simple and comprehensive ways.
    There is not much that can be done to change prejudice, at least not in an expeditious manner. The same goes for ideology. What can be changed is the negative impression of a beneficial program as a result of ignorance. Whenever the latter is mentioned, ACA advocates always bring up the fact that there is a lot of information available on the Internet. Yes, that is true. Unfortunately, most Americans are not interested in spending a couple of hours surfing the net to learn facts. To make matters worse, many are more inclined to form an opinion based on the rants of charlatans than spending their valuable time reading facts on an official website. The solution is to advertise the main benefits of the ACA via the national media in simple and clear terms, and the sooner we do that the better.

    1. Independent1 October 11, 2014

      Yeah! I had written Obama hoping he would give America an update early enough in October to help the struggling campaigns of some Democrats in red states where the governments have constantly trashed ACA.

      I suggested he should let the country know that ACA is already saving lives by providing many Americans with insurance that either couldn’t afford or couldn’t get before because of a pre-existing condition. AND, because hospitals over the past 3 years have decreased readmissions rates which means that they’re not sending people home as much with new illnesses – some that are fatal.

      In addition, the people in many states that have refused to expand Medicaid need to know that their government’s decision not to do that is costing them money. Numerous states are already showing considerable savings TO THE TAXPAYERS from having expanded Medicaid. In my letter, I actually provided the White House with a number of recent bylines that have reported these kinds of savings in a number of states that are promoting ACA.

      It’s puzzling to me why the White House isn’t taking this opportunity to not only lessen the fears of millions of Americans who are confused and apprehensive about ACA because of the GOP misinformation, but also, to help candidates across the nation that are trying desperately to get elected in order to make changes that will help people who need a helping hand at this difficult time.

      1. Dominick Vila October 11, 2014

        In my opinion, the negative perception that so many Americans have about the ACA has more to do with the failure of the administration to explain its benefits in simple terms than the anticipated GOP propaganda.
        I also believe that the only way to make the general public accept and use the ACA, is if the GOP makes it their own, and that may happen if the GOP controls both chambers of Congress after November.
        I suspect GOP strategists are well aware of the favorable circumstances that will contribute to solid GOP wins in November 2014, but they are likely to be aware that the opposite is going to happen in 2016. With that in mind, I expect them to move to the center right, if not ideologically, at least politically. I doubt they will pursue a McConnell-Boehner strategy after November, when the goal is going to be to appeal to a national audience and be competitive in blue states. A way to do that would be to make changes to the ACA, focused on greater benefits to insurance companies, stronger language to ensure funding is not available for abortions or to illegal immigrants, reminding the public that the ACA concept was conceived by the Heritage Foundation, and making it their own. If that happens, the propaganda will shift to saving a conservative concept from the evils of socialism, and making the changes needed to make it functional, affordable, and effective.
        As for GOP presidential candidates in 2016, I expect Jeb Bush to be their nominee. That is, unless he refuses to run.

        1. Independent1 October 11, 2014

          You may well be right, but I’m just afraid that with all the extremists in today’s GOP, that you may be giving the party too much credit for actually coming together and having even one iota of common sense.

  3. Joker Davis October 11, 2014

    Why do democrats insist on forcing Americans to buy something?

    1. Wedge Shot October 11, 2014

      Lets see now many things I am already forced to pay.
      Car insurance, Home owners insurance, Business liability insurance. Health insurance for a student in college. Flood insurance if in a flood zone. Withholding taxes and income taxes, state sales and income taxes and excise taxes.
      We pay these taxes and insurance costs because we are supposed to be a society that cares about its citizens. The health insurance law came about because people were getting kicked off of their plans when they got sick or could not get insurance if they had a preexisting condition. The number one cause of bankruptcy, in the US, is unpaid or un-payable health care costs. The benefits of Obamacare can only be realized if everyone has insurance because many people would game the system and not get health insurance until they got sick.
      It would be like not getting car insurance until after you had a wreck and then wanting the insurance company to cover it retroactively.
      That is why there is a mandate, got it?

  4. charles king October 11, 2014


  5. Amy October 11, 2014

    The reason people do not see Obamacare as a positive is because 80% of Americans are living hand to mouth and cannot afford to pay their rent much less insurance premiums. The number of Americans who have to pay 50% of their income for housing is rising dramatically as incomes fall and housing costs increase (thanks loads Wall Street banksters and thieves). Whoever determined the subsidies and ceilings for subsidies was clueless as to the current household budgets families are struggling under. It is not that People do not know about Obamacare. It is that they cannot add the cost of the premiums to their budgets after they subtract the loss of income and the increase in housing and other costs they are incurring. Washington and Wall Street are completely out of touch with Main Street. Totally and completely. The American people have totally given up on capitalism, free market, government, education, religion. It is all a cruel joke to them now. Heck, they don’t even watch TV anymore.

    1. Wedge Shot October 11, 2014

      And the choices without health insurance is stay sick and die or go bankrupt. If you are lucky enough to live in one of the states that expanded Medicaid then you might be able to get on that program or afford insurance under Obamacare. And with subsidies you might only pay a very small amount. If you want to blame someone for the low wages try the Republicans. They have blocked every effort to raise wages and create good jobs.
      Going without only makes sense if you don’t care one bit about yourself or your family.

    2. Russell Byrd October 11, 2014

      You make no sense. Not one little bit. I had a lengthy post almost completed debunking every bit of your post, but then, I realized that it was totally futile. If you had the least little bit of sense, you would realize that what you are saying proves exactly opposite of what you intend.

    3. bobnstuff October 12, 2014

      Your numbers are made up, Your facts are wrong and you haven’t been paying attention for the last four years. Only about 24% of the people in our country will deal with the ACA

  6. charles king October 11, 2014

    I know I have succeed in life because i have What? I want and I have What? I need. I am a (85yrold) Black America Who? believe in Democracy and with a little bit Of Critical Thinking on myself and on my country I think I will come out on the plus side in (15yrs) more years When? I am (100). We have to know Who? are the anti-Govt and What? are they trying to sell instead of Democracy. This I know, Social Security works, Democracy works but You have to vote the right people to the Office, like You the People did When? you re-elected President Obama. Just do some Critical Thinking about What? the hell is going on in America. Unions work, Public School System works instead of What? the States are trying to sell Charters schools, all that is What? the Catholic School system has always been, think folks What? the hell is going on with the use to be Public School System, I was educated in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, I got the best education that the country had to offer (FREE) so What? the hell is going on today with your education system, well it seems like today that these States Plutocracts are privatizing your tax paid schools. Greedy Capitalistic Pigs with their corporations Not paying their fair share of taxes and we have our Congress and Senates not doing their jobs but still using our Assets (Taxes). We have to get our Democracy back because Plutocracy is moving in fast on OUR Assets and using it for their own personal gains. The VOTE is still Supreme so come Nov. V O T E their stinking A**** O U T . Thank You are the magic words in my book. I Love Ya All. Mr. C. E. KING

    1. hicusdicus November 1, 2014

      Greedy capitalist corporate pigs who pay the highest corporate taxes in the world.

  7. 1standlastword October 13, 2014

    The REAL problem with ACA, unlike programs like SS and the sort is it helps some and hurts others. If SS helped some and hurt others it too would suffer the same critics as ACA.

    The truth is ACA “currently” only works for at-risk populations/ vulnerable populations: It’s NOT bad because it provides guarantees for these populations but it is NOT good for all in the way SS is (amounts vary of course based on contribution)

    The problem with ACA that will never be solved as long as it has a relationship with FOR-PROFIT- INSURANCE. Our costs will always be higher than the rest of the world because health insurance underwrites a lot of $hit that doesn’t have any thing to do with healthcare; political campaigns the being worst among examples

    According to my source healthcare in 2012 was nearly 18% of the GDP http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SH.XPD.TOTL.ZS

    Premiums are still sky rocketed!!! Insurance companies get to recycle plans annually and people have deductibles so high that the virtually pay out of pocket for the year until they are recycled again…ACA didn’t help stop this outrageous profiteering!!!!
    Additionally, the IRS has confounded the rules some much so that middle class families have to rob Peter to pay Paul to afford market place plans because they can’t qualify for Obamacare (the family loop hole)
    ACA consorted the health insurance industry and that is why it is not as successful as wholly helpful programs like SS

  8. Manny Bartow October 17, 2014

    If Obama’s ideas about health insurance are so good, why is the IRS needed to force you to follow them?


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