WASHINGTON – President Obama continues to tout what the White House views as the success of the Affordable Care Act after exceeding its health insurance enrollment goals but Republicans are continuing the search for soft spots to attack in a law they maintain remains unpopular with the public.
The administration has taken an extended home run trot since it was revealed on April 1 that 7.1 million Americans had signed up for private insurance coverage under what is popularly known as Obamacare. That number doesn’t include another 4.5 million people who qualify for Medicaid under the law and 3 million aged 26 or under covered by their parents’ healthcare plans.
Since then, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office determined that “12 million more nonelderly people will have health insurance in 2014 than would have had it in the absence of the ACA” and that the program will have “a net cost of $36 billion for 2014, $5 billion less than the previous projection for the year; and $1,383 billion for the 2015–2024 period.”
Bolstered by what the administration considers good news, Obama was sufficiently confident to assert recently that “the debate over repealing this law is over. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.”
“In the end, history is not kind to those who would deny Americans their basic economic security,” Obama said. “Nobody remembers well those who stand in the way of America’s progress or our people. And that’s what the Affordable Care Act represents. As messy as it’s been sometimes, as contentious as it’s been sometimes, it is progress. It is making sure that we are not the only advanced country on earth that doesn’t make sure everybody has basic healthcare.”
Obamacare has never carried the support of a majority of Americans and Republicans plan to use that in the approaching November elections. But recent polls indicate a possible thaw. An ABC News/Washington Post poll, conducted March 26-30, showed for the first time support outpacing opposition with 49 percent expressing approval and 48 percent continuing to oppose. That’s up from last November when 40 percent approved and 57 percent disapproved.
A bipartisan National Public Radio poll released earlier this week continued to show public dissatisfaction but the margins are narrowing – 47 percent said they favor the law while 51 percent oppose.
A Kaiser Health Tracking Poll released in late March found that support for repealing the law and demands that the debate continue are a Republican thing. But all that news is coupled with other surveys, like the one released last week by Pew Research, showing that only 37 percent of those questioned approve of the law while 50 percent oppose.
Congressional Republicans have been relatively tepid in their response to the enrollment news.
“We don’t know of course, exactly what they have signed up for,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky. “We don’t know how many have paid. What we do know is that all across the country our constituents are having an unpleasant interaction with Obamacare. Whether they can sign up for a policy or not, they are discovering, of course, higher premiums, a higher deductible. Many of them are losing their jobs and so it is really is a catastrophe for the country, both for the healthcare providers and the consumers.”
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, challenged the White House, asserting that “billions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted. Five million Americans have received cancellation notices. Only a small percentage of the uninsured have signed up. Is that really success?”