As new reports show that Obamacare is the largest healthcare expansion in 50 years, it faces a weird political problem: conservatives hate it far more than the left likes it.
According to the Los Angeles Times, more than 9.5 million previously uninsured people have gained insurance through Obamacare, and less than a million people whose plans were cancelled are now currently uninsured. That figure includes a third of the people who bought private plans through the exchanges, part of the 4.5 million estimated to to have enrolled in Medicaid and a small portion of the 9 million people who bought plans directly from their insurers. It's a number that flat out debunks one of the GOP's biggest talking points, that the health care law has actually led to a net decrease in insurance. Speaker John Boehner and others have argued that more people lost insurance than gained insurance, and that most of the new Obamacare enrollees already had insurance. It's now obvious that those talking points aren't true.
Perhaps that's why some in the GOP are challenging the numbers. Republican Sen. John Barrasso told Fox News “they are cooking the books on this,” after the Obama administration announced that they'd reached 6 million enrollments. And while it's true that the number will be lower once you count people who haven't paid, when you factor in Medicaid and plans purchased off the exchanges, it's well over 6 million. The 9.5 million previously uninsured also represents a large political bloc that would against the repeal of Obamacare. Any future GOP alternative plan would have to address those individuals, and the previously insured people enrolled.
Republicans, meanwhile, have found new ways to attack Obamacare. As The Washington Post reports, female Republican candidates are using Obamacare's failures to appeal to voters, particularly single women and mothers — because women are in charge of two thirds of healthcare spending. While Democratic women are pushing the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — something Republicans have tended to vote against — GOP women are pushing health care as a primary issue. Americans for Prosperity's Jennifer Stefano, who recently falsely claimed $94,000 is 133 percent of the poverty level in Pennsylvania, told the Post, “We are doing the ads to do some level of education for women on what is happening, particularly with Obamacare and how it’s negatively impacting their lives, but then we follow it up with how they can do something about it.”
The advantage Republicans have in that sense is that anti-Obamacare sentiments motivate conservatives more than pro-Obamacare feelings motivate liberals. As Politico notes, Democratic strategists are arguing that the lesson from this month's Florida special election (in which the Democrat's candidate used a "fix it, don't nix it" approach) is that they have to unapologetically support of Obamacare. But the poll numbers are still on the right's side. The health care law is still unpopular, even as millions have enrolled. And 12 percent of those who oppose the law think it's not liberal enough. But that's a problem for another election.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.