Are there signs that Obamacare may survive — even if the Democrats’ majority in the Senate doesn’t? Are there reasons why it is likely to survive and perhaps thrive, despite on one of the most bumbling and politically disastrous launches of a program in American history? And are there reasons why Republicans should be smiling?
There’s a wealth of takes and stories on “Obamacare’s” current and status. But the key realities are this:
1. Don’t write it off (yet). The Huffington Post:
As Obamacare emerges from the rubble of its first two months, local organizers, state officials and the White House see a clear path forward. With the website now quasi-functional, there are good reasons to believe that the Affordable Care Act will catch on. Quite simply, there are tens of millions of uninsured people who want health insurance, a law in place to help them obtain it, and advocates on the ground making sure they know how to do it.
For on-the-ground organizations, Obamacare represents a once-in-a-generation organizing opportunity. By signing someone up for health insurance, they are delivering a tangible benefit, something that person will value for years to come, and winning loyalty along the way. Nonprofits, as well as mayors and governors, have an intense incentive to make Obamacare work.
And millions of those uninsured people — many of them young and healthy — are in tightly concentrated urban areas, target-rich environments for the grassroots groups and politicians working to sign people up.
Take Los Angeles County. More than 2.2 million uninsured people live there — nearly 5 percent of the entire country’s uninsured population. In the Houston metro area, there’s Harris County with more than 1.1 million uninsured. Add in Cook County, which includes Chicago, and Miami-Dade County in Florida, and the numbers of concentrated and targetable uninsured quickly add up.
The importance of these counties to Obamacare’s success is not lost on anyone. “California is ground zero for this,” said Steven Abramson, a marketing manager for the Community Health Alliance of Pasadena. “And LA County is ground zero for California.”
Abramson said his group and other local clinics will be augmenting their enrollment events and outreach efforts with a new initiative called Cover LA, which launches in December and will include videos being played on transit buses to promote a website and call center. The website will let residents search for enrollment events by zip code.
Manpower is being ramped up across the county. Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, has 448 navigators operating in Los Angeles County with an additional 1,300 in the process of being certified, said the exchange’s Larry Hicks.
2. It’s being used as a weapon against Republican Governors. The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent:
Democrats are currently using a major pillar of the health law — the Medicaid expansion — as a weapon against Republican Governors in multiple 2014 races. Many of these Governors opted out of the expansion or have advanced their own replacement solutions, and many are facing serious challenges.
In Florida, Democrat Charlie Crist has excoriated GOP Governor Rick Scott for dragging his feet on the Medicaid expansion, claiming a “million” Floridians “will not get health care” as a result. In Wisconsin, Democrat Mary Burke is campaigning on a pledge to reverse GOP Governor Scott Walker’s decision to turn down $119 million in federal money to expand Medicaid to more low-income Wisconsinites.
In Pennsylvania, multiple Dems looking to run for governor are attacking GOP Governor Tom Corbett for subbing in his own plan to expand Medicaid, arguing it’s a ploy to defuse the issue. In Maine, Dem Rep. Mike Michaud is attacking GOP Governor Paul LePage for refusing to opt in.
Some Dems running for governor in red states, such as South Carolina, may not embrace the Medicaid expansion debate as directly. But the fact that it’s emerging as an issue in some high profile races is a reminder that it’s still good politics for Dems to campaign on components of the Affordable Care Act that directly impact many of the constituents these GOP governors represent. Terry McAuliffe was just elected governor of purple Virginia partly on the Medicaid expansion.
Dems will continue using the Medicaid expansion to paint GOP governors in purple or blue states as hostage to a national Tea Party agenda. “Walker, Scott, LePage, and Corbett have refused to lift a finger to bring their taxpayers’ money home to create jobs and expand health care access,” Danny Kanner, a spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association, tells me. ”It’s the kind of sabotage one might expect from Tea Party Republicans in Congress, but voters will punish those governors for it.”
The larger story is that the Medicaid expansion is emerging as an early Obamacare success — a rare area where the law may already be putting Republicans on the defensive. A new report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services finds that over 1.4 million people in October were deemed eligible to enroll in Medicaid or CHIP. There was a far larger jump in applications where states are expanding Medicaid than where they aren’t — another sign Obamacare may benefit far more people in states where GOP governors are not trying to block the expansion.
3. It is now a MAJOR political obstacle for Democrats. The conservative The Daily Caller says polls show a wave building against Democrats that could likely hand control to the GOP:
Recent polling shows that an election wave of anti-ObamaCare sentiment is growing, and it is not only likely to hand the GOP control of the United States Senate, but might wipe out as many as 12 Democrat seats–many of which looked safe just a few months ago.
Back in July, Five Thirty Eight’s election guru Nate Silver believed that control of the Senate was a tossup. That has all changed now that voters got their first real look at the brutal consequences of ObamaCare.
Starting with the generic ballot that simply pits Republican lawmakers against their Democrat counterparts, the movement towards the GOP has been striking. In the Real Clear Politics average of these polls, going back as far as the beginning of the year, Democrats have consistently led by 3 to 4 points. During the government shutdown, Democrats leaped to 6 and 7 point leads. Since the disastrous rollout of ObamaCare, though, Republicans are not only in the lead by 2.5 points; they have led in every poll but one since November 10.
This generic polling is reflected in the available polling of individual Senate seats.
Keep in mind that in order to win control of the Senate, Republicans need only pick up six seats, and with Democrat incumbents retiring in the redder than red states of South Dakota, West Virginia, and Montana, Republicans pretty much have three Senate pick-ups in the bag. But thanks to ObamaCare and vulnerable Democrat Senators refusing to put their own promises and the wellbeing of their constituents above slavish devotion to Obama, picking off another three should be fairly easy.
Even with the ideological spin, the article does underscore a reality: the polls are now troublesome to the Dems. Is there any way they can reverse or neutralize the fall?
President Barack Obama’s urging the Dems to enact Obama care may have echoed actor Wilfred Brimley’s favorite line for Quaker Oats, but it seems as if many voters are getting indigestion:
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.