Editorial cartoon on Obamacare

Speak Up for Obamacare

Meaningful changes and political gain are only possible if Democrats defend the law.

Editorial cartoon on Obamacare
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Democrats are running away from the Affordable Care Act. This week, Politico reported that North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan is distancing herself from her vote for the health care law, even as the state is signing up hundreds of thousands of people for the health insurance exchange. According to Politico:

The Tar Heel State signed up more than 357,000 people — one-third of those eligible for the new health insurance exchange. Yet President Barack Obama’s health law remains a major liability for Sen. Kay Hagan, who faces one of the toughest reelection races for any Senate Democrat this year, a true toss-up fight against North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis. He misses no chance to tie her to Obama and the Affordable Care Act, forcing her to calibrate both how to defend a law she voted for and how to distance herself from it.

Certainly, vulnerable Democrats such as Hagan have plenty of reason to want to distance themselves from the new law. The Affordable Care Act’s implementation has been rife with problems, including a botched roll out of healthcare.gov, concerns over negative consequences of the employer mandate that have prompted the administration to delay its enforcement, and fear over cost increases. There was also the president’s promise that people could keep the plan they have, which turned out to be untrue. Additionally, as Politico points out, there’s little recognition among those who are benefiting from new health insurance plans that the Affordable Care Act is the reason.

[SEE: Cartoons on the Democratic Party]

However, despite these challenges, recent studies indicate the Affordable Care Act may be showing some signs of success. Last week, the Commonwealth Fund, Urban Institute and Gallup-Healthways all released surveys showing the rate of uninsured has dropped. The Commonwealth Fund’s study also indicated that some of the beneficiaries of the Affordable Care Act are those who have had difficulty getting health insurance in the past. The Affordable Care Act also reformed the individual insurance market and implemented important insurance market reforms, such as coverage of pre-existing conditions, guaranteed issue, a ban on coverage limitations and a ban on the use of rescissions (except in cases of fraud). While most healthy people may not have felt the full impact of these reforms, most sick people probably did.

Weaknesses remain in the health care law, but the system it replaced was massively unfair to anyone who faced unemployment or a major accident or illness. The longer Democrats avoid talking about the Affordable Care Act and why they voted for it, the more they cede the messaging on the new law to its opponents and allow any good the law has done to be forgotten. Of course the law needs some changes — most laws of that magnitude do once implementation is underway. Meaningful changes, and political gain, will be easier to achieve if the Affordable Care Act’s supporters start speaking up for it.