Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Eza Klein's Overview of Obamacare Politicking

Welcome to Wonkbook, Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas’s morning policy news primer. Send comments, criticism, or ideas to Wonkbook at Gmail dot com. To read more by Ezra and his team, go to Wonkblog.

July 30, 2013

We’re going to spend a fair amount of time covering the war of words and commercials and campaign events over Obamacare as we get closer to the law’s October 1st launch date. But to put a marker down, almost nothing anybody says about this law between now and then matters. Really.

That’s been true for years now. Look at this graph of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s health-care tracking poll. Really study it. Opinions on Obamacare have been basically stable since 2010. That’s been true despite all the rhetoric and all the elections and all the Supreme Court decisions and all the ads. The law has been slightly unpopular for three years. There’s never been a sustained period in which it became popular, or very unpopular.
The most notable trend on that graph, in fact, is that over the last six months or so, both the “favorable” and “unfavorable” numbers have fallen and “don’t know/refused” has risen. So that’s been the main outcome of this war for public opinion: A slightly larger proportion of the country is confused about the Affordable Care Act. Congrats, spinmeisters.

This speaks to a broader truth about political rhetoric: The things people in Washington say always have less influence than people in Washington think. It’s true when presidents are talking. It’s true during national campaigns. And it’s even truer for the continuing, bitter war over the health-care law, which everyone but real obsessives has tuned out.

And even if that wasn’t true — even if the communications campaign mattered more in moving public opinion — it still wouldn’t really matter. Jonathan Bernstein puts it well: “The Affordable Care Act isn't going to be put up for a referendum. To the extent it matters to voters -- and very few people will ever vote on just one issue, health care included -- there's no election where Obamacare could make a difference for over a year.”

He puts this well, too: “The best argument for the Affordable Care Act will be successful implementation. And the best argument against it will be if a train wreck really happens.”

The Affordable Care Act has until the end of 2014 to prove itself or really, truly fail before either outcome can have a serious electoral impact. It has until 2017 before it faces even the slightest chance of repeal, or even real revision. The political communications campaigns both parties will launch between now and then are just people in Washington keeping busy
The one exception to this is if Republicans really do decide to shut down the government if the Obama administration won’t defund Obamacare. But even given how self-destructive the party has been in recent years, I simply don’t believe they’re that self-destructive. I mean, Marco Rubio can’t possibly believe what he’s saying here will fly — can he?


Having stated this balanced overview, Klein himself expects Obamacare to be a success.

Personally, I think Obamacare will be a resounding success, in large part because it will contain healthcare costs or at least diminish their upward trendline. More importantly, by providing subsidies to middle class families, Obamacare make healthcare more affordable for far more Americans than Klein foresees.

I giddily accept even money bets.


"Healthcare Costs Register First Decline In 40 Years"

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