Will Obamacare turn out to be a plus for Dems in next year’s elections?


In the world of politics, conventional wisdom is a perishable commodity. What seems inevitable on one day can seem unlikely on the next.

Take, for example, the situation with the Affordable Care Act. Conventional wisdom has suggested for months now that President Obama’s signature legislative achievement will cause big problems for Democrats at the ballot box next November. But Michael Tomasky SAYS the tide may be turning:

From an atrocious starting point, enrollment on HealthCare.gov is essentially quadrupling. As predicted, by next fall, the law is going to be a net plus for Obama and the Democrats.

If one looks just at the raw, bottom-line number the Department of Health and Human Services released Wednesday — 365,000 citizens enrolled since October 1—one might be inclined to think it’s not so hot. And it isn’t. That’s 180,000 or so a month, and if you post that number against the stated goal of 7 million by next spring, the stated goal looks awfully chimerical, and the thing seems a disaster (180,000 times six months, the enrollment period, is just 1.08 million).

Dig a little deeper and things look considerably better. If we could graph it, the bar line of enrollment would make for a pretty impressive ski slope: After just 27,000 people signed up in the whole of October…about 100,000 people signed up in November, and then, in the first week of December alone, 112,000 chose plans…From an obviously atrocious starting place, enrollment is essentially quadrupling. If that pace were to continue, the 7 million figure would be cleared in March.

I still wouldn’t quite bet on that. But I would definitely and unflinchingly bet on the central proposition I argued last week:  By next fall, HealthCare.gov is going to be a net plus for Obama and the Democrats.

Wishful thinking? You can call it that if you want to. But I warn you I’m not usually a wishful thinker. Like most partisans on either side, I tend to expect the worst. It’s usually a wise insurance policy; you’re rarely disappointed. I write such things only when I really think them, like the time in August 2012 when I wrote a column suggesting that Obama could very well win about 330 electoral votes. He won 332, which most anyone else would have said when I wrote that piece was crazy.

I had a hunch then, and I have one now. And my bet is based on a lot more than enrollment numbers. It’s based on the numbers of people who are benefiting and will benefit from aspects of the law. These aren’t in the thousands. They’re in the millions. About 70 million citizens will enjoy free—free—preventive care for a range of services that typically weren’t covered at all before or at best were covered and required a co-pay. About half of them are Medicare recipients (= old people = voters). Preventive care, as you may know, is something our system hasn’t been doing very well. Now it will.

More than 100 million Americans live with what the insurance companies would define as pre-existing conditions. Over these next few months, as their symptoms flare up or especially if they worsen, requiring lengthy hospital stays and intense treatment, they’re going to be seeing that they don’t have to fret about money or whether they’re going to continue to be covered anymore. Mental-health coverage is going to be improved dramatically for up to 60 million Americans. Nearly 7 million senior citizens are going to find in the coming months that they’re no longer screwed by the doughnut-hole prescription-drug problem that was created by the Bush Medicare Part D law of 2003 and corrected by Obamacare. It is saving these 7 million seniors an average of $1,000 a year, which for many of these folks is probably a reasonable chunk of their income.

I could go on. The thing is that all this isn’t going to make the papers and the cable channels much. There isn’t a lot of inherent news value in a free cervical-cancer screening or a prescription-drug refill. But these millions of people live real lives, not on TV, and they and their families and friends will know what has happened.

You see that I’m not making a Beltway/political argument. Washington, D.C., will, I can promise you, be the last city in the United States to change its mind about Obamacare. Once a notion becomes conventional wisdom in this town and rocks a president’s poll numbers the way the disastrous rollout so clearly has, it takes a typhoon to dislodge it. Or a hurricane—remember how Karl Rove was making the United States a conservative country until Katrina came along and sent Bush’s approval numbers down there in the range of curdled milk?

The rollout won’t be a hurricane. It will be a calm rain, a steady shower of reality across the country that may never achieve quite enough force to trump inside-the-Beltway perception but will be strong enough to change many people’s minds around the country.

Fixes still need to be made. But now, as opposed to a month ago, one can feel as if they will be made. And without excusing the bollixing up of the rollout, of which I’ve written very critically, one can also say now that in historical context, this is all happening pretty fast. Remember, the original Social Security legislation was passed in 1935. And when did the first check go out? Not until 1940. Can you imagine a five-year lag in today’s media world? Roosevelt, and more important the program itself, would have been torn to pieces. I think in two more years’ time, and indeed less than that, many millions of Americans will see that what they thought was decent health insurance before the Affordable Care Act was like gaslight before electricity. If that’s wishful thinking, it’s for their sake, not the president’s.




  1. Remember, a significant percentage of new PPACA signups were forced because the law made people lose their existing policy. And a lot of those people are paying higher premiums. So just the act of signing up through through the ObamaCare exchanges isn’t exactly a measure of success.

    Also, our President’s repeated statement of “If you like your plan you can keep it” is likely to be 2013’s “Lie of the Year.” So no, it won’t be a plus for Dems.


  2. duncan macdonald

    Firstly, Enrollment numbers are not insured people, insured people are those who make the first months payment. “Huge Difference”.. I hate to say this, but we are dealing with loosers and the drudges of society, lack of education, fiscal discipline, etc.. so the correlation between these numbers will be absolutely lower.

    Secondly, the administration already knows how many “young” people have signed up but have kept very quite on this statistic. the reason for this is because millennial’s are rejecting this bill, and everything it stands for as income redistribution.

    Thirdly, Broken promises, keep you insurance. even if Obama signs up 5 million this year. 5.9 million lost their insurance because of his law.. his law caused a net loss in insured Americans.

    Fourth, You can keep your Dr, Hospital, this is the one that most will relate too.. This was an out and out lie.. Dr’s are running away from this law as medicare cuts dr’s fees by a 3rd.

    Fifth, an estimated 80-100 million insured will loose their benefits through the employers mandate in 2014, these are people who likes their plans.

    Sixth, Obama promised premiums would reduce by $2500 per family, we are seeing the exact opposite effect, an increase in costs.

    I can go on an on, I really have only just touched the surface, do you really believe this is a net win for Liberals… Unfortunately every one looses here, but the democrats are the ones with blood on their hands.

    • ” I hate to say this, but we are dealing with loosers and the drudges of society, lack of education, fiscal discipline, etc.. so the correlation between these numbers will be absolutely lower.”

      Who the F are you referring to? Im self employed and have been for a long time. I paid for my own insurance until Obamacare came in and made the policy go up 150% ( but it wasn’t the best insurance since it was a 10k deductible). I have 3 choices, go with Obamacare, pay nearly $5o0 a month for healthcare (which my income doesn’t support) or take a short term extension of my current insurance coverage which my governor is claiming is against the law. So be careful about the name calling because you don’t know what you’re talking about.

  3. duncan macdonald

    Yes I agree it was a generalization, and “many” in this country are hard working.. but are you seriously going to deny that we are not dealing with lower echelon’s in society with this legislation.. the uneducated masses – ergo the same people who voted these democrats in, and by the way finally got what they wished for… although were too stupid to understand what it was until it was too late.. that is what my statement refers too..

    My statement btw is directly referring to those people who have no will to work, want something for free, spend their EBT cards on cigarettes and alcohol, and drain this great nation… (not sure why you cannot see the correlation!!)

    • duncan, stop with the nonsense. There’s been a problem with the escalating cost of healthcare for the last 25 years. Ever since Reagan changed things and gave the health providers the opportunity to turn affordable healthcare into a profit driven, Wall Street traded, commodity.

      Over the last 20 years we’ve seen attempts to control those escalating cost and increases with no real success.

      The ACA is a very poor attempt to control the cost and ensure all people get basic access to affordable healthcare. If I recall right, Obama campaigned on a single payer theme then abruptly sold out the American people to the insurance companies and big pharma, that wrote the healthcare bill to ensure those industries were compensated handsomely, just like the Medicare Part D program is providing big pharma with huge revenues because they ensured the got top dollar for the drugs they sold in bulk through that program, instead of how most businesses work that get big discounts for bulk buying. Again, another sell out by our politicians that smile to our faces and then hand us the bill, because it’s our tax dollars paying big pharma.

      The ACA is another welfare program, I agree. It’s not only a welfare program for the lower income people but a welfare program for the insurance and pharmaceutical companies that will profit huge from its success.

      I’m not happy with the way the ACA works as its directly tied to income levels and those income levels can change throughout the year, thus can cause a big surprise come tax time when those tax credits are reviewed against your income. If you don’t estimate correctly, the isured person/family can be in for a big surprise come tax time. I not only have to manage my business and its growth but having to wonder how if I grow my business its going to affect my insurance that in the past was just there and I only had to make monthly payments on it. Now I have to be concerned if my income is going to be estimated correctly, so I don’t get a penalty if its not.

      The other bigger problem is with the enhanced Medicaid services that is going to allow more lower income people into that program. The delivery system isn’t set up to handle that increase as many doctor/dentist limit the number of patients they will see under this program, because of its poor re-imbursement rates. That re-imbursement rate issue is also a big problem for the Medicare system. As a person from the Boomer Generation, the level of care and access to that care is a growing concern for me and my generation. Reimbursement rates are a big part of the success of the ACA when it comes to Medicaid providers and their ability to increase their case loads. I’ve been told that Medicaid will re-imburse 100% of the usual and customary charges under ACA, but I’ve not been able to get that confirmed by any of the service organizations that process Medicaid claims. In fact they’ve said they’re not aware of any changes to the reimbursement rates. I don’t want to receive less than equal treatment when I seek medical treatment because my doctor/dentist isn’t compensated even enough to cover their cost.

      I want you to be aware that many people who work full time+ jobs will still qualify for Medicaid under the new guidelines. I think many people who will qualify for Medicaid would prefer to be in a tax credit program, but if they’re placed in one of them and their incomes doesn’t meet the guidelines, they would have pay those tax credit back. That could mean $1000s of dollars in added burden for them at tax time. $1000s of dollars that won’t be there. These people didn’t ask for that dilemma. It’s how the ACA works. I don’t like it, but I need insurance and because the ACA has minimum levels of service requirement, my old insurance coverage would cost me nearly $500 a month, a 150% increase from my current rate. I can’t afford that. You tell me what I’m supposed to do. Keep in mind I’m 59 years old. Not the most desirable age group for those higher paying jobs. I work well over 60 hours a week, 7 days a week usually. There’s many people out there like me because I know them. There’s not a lot of opportunity out there for older people these days and I’m greatful that I could create a business model that although its not the best paying, it meets my needs so far. Not everybody has that ability and I feel for them. It’s not a perfect world out there. http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/12/12/increase-in-medicaid-sign-ups-could-put-pressure-on-health-care-system/

  4. duncan: One whose grammar, spelling and punctuation are as bad as yours ought not be holding forth on the failings of “the uneducated masses.”

  5. Shawn Robinson

    DM’s statement reminded me of an attitude with which I see occasionally.


    “I always imagined that I was full of heart, but it turned out that I was oblivious. Like so many Republicans, I had assumed that society’s “losers” had somehow earned their desserts. As I came to recognize that poverty is not earned or chosen or deserved, and that our use of force is far less precise than I had believed, I realized with a shock that I had effectively viewed whole swaths of the country and the world as second-class people.”

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