Exactly four years ago, when Democrats were in control of the House and the Senate and President Obama was still riding high in the popularity polls, the president signed the Affordable Care Act into law. But as the midterm elections are approaching, the ACA is still a controversial measure that has many Democrats trying to run away from it and Republicans still blasting away at it.
With the Republican attacks and the Democratic hedging in mind, Obama yesterday at a Florida event broke down the approach his party should use in selling the benefits of Obamacare, rather than running away from it.
“Before we passed Obamacare, it was routine for insurance companies to charge women significantly more than men for health insurance—it’s just like the dry cleaners,” Obama said at an event in the Sunshine State focused on women’s economic issues. “You send in a blouse, I send in a shirt — they charge you twice as much. But the same thing was happening in health insurance. And so we’ve banned that policy for everybody.”
Commentators were making a big deal out of remarks yesterday by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., when she hailed the law in language that sounded a bit wishy-washy.
“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans are enjoying newfound health security and the personal and economic freedom that comes with it,” she said.
But Pelosi acknowledged the ACA isn’t perfect.
“Any bill that’s passed is not perfect,” she said. “I wanted single payer. I wanted public option. So, you know, I had some changes I would make myself, but as the implementation takes place, as we see improvements that can be made to any compromise—which the bill was—will do that. But just because people say, ‘I don’t want to repeal it but I do want to fix it,’ doesn’t mean they’re walking away from it.”
That statement was jumped on by Matt Gorman, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee (the House Republicans’ campaign arm), who said in his own statement: “Even Pelosi–the architect of Obamacare–can’t explain the benefits of a law that is growing more unpopular by the day.”
That anti-Obamacare hyperbole was on full display in a USA Today essay by Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican Party.
“Obamacare turns four this Sunday, and it’s never looked worse,” he wrote. “For months, the news has not been kind. A broken promise, a broken website. Lost plans, lost doctors. Rising prices, rising frustration. Shrinking paychecks, a shrinking workforce. Unsecure data, insecure Democrats. The few Democrats willing to talk about Obamacare publicly struggle to defend the law on merits. So they’ve resorted to one last defense. They insist Republicans don’t have any ideas…It may be titled the ‘Affordable Care Act,’ but it has not reduced the cost of healthcare. Millions are forced to pay higher premiums. Many who manage to navigate HealthCare.gov experience sticker shock: the plans available to them are more expensive than the plans that Obamacare canceled. Young people could end up paying over twice as much for plans on the individual market as they did before Obamacare. Vice President Biden has admitted the administration’s enrollment goals will not be reached.”
But as pointed out by CBS News, the law’s complexity may make it difficult for Republicans to aggressively campaign against it. For instance, when potential Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown attended an event last week at the home of Herb Richardson, a Republican New Hampshire state representative, after Brown railed against the law and called it a “monstrosity,” Richardson said it had been a “financial lifesaver” for him and his wife.
So things aren’t as simple as the Republicans would have you believe.
Veteran Democratic strategist Robert Shrum says Democrats should embrace Obamacare, not run away from it. Shrum says the conventional wisdom has set in that the reason Democrat Alex Sink lost a winnable special House election in Florida last week was because of Obamacare. But Shrum said she argued for “fixing it, not repealing it.”
“Instead of running away from health reform, they have to run on it – in the right way,” he wrote in the Daily Beast.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., is taking that message to heart. She’s holding an Obamacare anniversary event tomorrow in her district with nonprofit groups, where certified “navigators” will be on hand to help people through the enrollment process.