Watch out, Republicans: Obamacare is finally almost popular!
The Affordable Care Act is still more unpopular than popular, but not by much, according to the latest Kaiser Family Foundation monthly tracking poll, released Thursday. In the new poll, 43 percent of respondents have an unfavorable view of ObamaCare and 41 percent have a favorable opinion, the narrowest margin in more than two years. The poll, conducted in early March, also found that 46 percent of Americans would like Congress to carry out or expand the law, while 40 percent would like it repealed. 1
The 40% who still want Obamacare repealed presumably includes some who want their state insurance plans (like “Kentucky Kynect”) retained and who are unaware that the state exchange they like so much is Obamacare; it also includes many who, when asked, state that they much prefer the benign Affordable Care Act to the dastardly Obamacare.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Chait doubts that the Republicans have a plan to replace Obamacare:
So [the Republican] health-care plan is to repeal all of Obamacare, replace its savings with $1 trillion in magic money, and then spend zero on subsidizing health insurance for the millions of Americans who would become uninsured. If Republicans wanted to spend something on an Obamacare replacement — tax credits, high risk pools, whatever — they would need to set aside money for it. They chose not to. As hard as it is to design a health-care plan, designing one that cuts $1 trillion and spends nothing is really hard. 2
Unlike Mr. Chait, who only stoops to mock, I would like to offer a modest proposal that I believe will solve our nation’s partisan bickering about healthcare: the GOP-controlled Congress should repeal Obamacare and simultaneously replace it with something called “The Patriotic Patient-Centered Healthcare Reform Act for Freedom Under God”. This new legislation (the PPCHRAFUG) would be exactly the same as Obamacare but under a different name; it could be called “Boehnercare” or “Ryancare” or “McConnellcare” for short.
The Republicans have backed themselves into a corner on this issue. Not only is the Affordable Care Act beginning to work (and costing less than originally projected) and gaining in acceptance, but it is now widely known as “Obamacare”. The name was first derisively intended as a way to hang the law—which Republicans were sure would fail—around the necks of the president and his fellow Democrats; but now that the ACA is being implemented, that very appellation guarantees that Democrats will reap the political benefits from healthcare reform for the foreseeable future.3
Republicans can’t accept that outcome, but as Chait says, they have no viable alternative. The only proposals that could conceivably take the place of Obamacare are—well, you could call them “Obamacare Lite”. They would basically keep most of the current law while providing lower subsidies to individuals and allowing more loopholes for insurers (who could go back to issuing substandard policies), taking employers off the hook and forcing workers to purchase their own policies; or repealing the individual mandate, after which insurers would raise rates to compensate for lost business. Repealing Obamacare, now that it’s actually in effect, would force medical providers, insurers, employers and ordinary citizens to undo all sorts of changes they’ve made to accommodate the law and to forego benefits they've begun to receive; repeal would be a nightmare, and an expensive one at that.
Which is why it's not going to happen, and why my modest proposal offers Republicans a way out: rather than change the law, they can just change its name so that they can take credit for it. And for decades to come, a grateful nation will remember when a brave Republican Congress overthrew the tyranny that had been Obamacare and gave us instead the wonders and benefits of Boehnercare.
3 Imagine the long-term political benefits for Democrats if Social Security had been labeled “Roosevelt Checks” or if Medicare had been dubbed “LBJcare”. Those programs worked and are still popular; in twenty years, we’ll be saying the same about Obamacare.