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ACA Agonistes
ACA Enrollment Surges, Public Yawns

After the March enrollment surge brought the number of people covered by the ACA up to 8 million, politicians and pundits alike felt renewed enthusiasm for the law. President Obama again declared the debate over the ACA to be over. Democrats, once worried about the law’s effects on their midterm chances, went on the offensive. Journalists proclaimed victory. But a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that the enrollment surge has barely altered the public’s low opinion of the ACA:

The enrollment surge at the end of March in the health insurance exchanges […] got a fair amount of attention from the public, with over half saying they followed the enrollment numbers “very” or “fairly closely.” But the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds that this news did little to change the public’s impressions of the law, with overall opinion remaining exactly where it was last month (46 percent unfavorable, 38 percent favorable). While over four in ten correctly identify the number of people who have signed up for insurance, enrollment levels do not register as a success for most Americans. Nearly six in ten (including half of those who correctly identified the 8 million figure) believe enrollment fell short of the government’s expectations, and the same share believe the rollout problems indicate that the law is not working as planned.

This poll suggests that public opposition to the law is likely to persist through the midterm elections. We’ve always said that Obamacare’s PR machine faced an uphill battle because, as the old truism has it, you don’t get a second chance at a first impression. Minor achievements like the last-minute surge in enrollment won’t erase people’s memories of a botched rollout that lasted for months. Democrats seeking re-election are still in as much trouble as they were before, and their newly-aggressive defense of the ACA might fall very, very flat.

But the poll also shows that Republicans are facing their own challenge: six in ten Americans want to see the law improved rather than repealed and replaced. In these midterm elections, the two parties will be pulling in opposite directions on an uncertain public, which dislikes the law but also fears what might replace it. That’s a tough spot for politicians of all stripes to be in: It’s hard to get out the vote on an issue when voters have decided to shelter in place.

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  • Boritz

    …six in ten Americans want to see the law improved rather than repealed and

    … an uncertain public, which dislikes the law but also fears what might
    replace it.

    So the public fears that the current (as of the most recent delays) law could be replaced with something even worse but prefers this fear to the fear that it will go away altogether. Perhaps a new set of fears will arise that will shake the current equilibrium of fear. We can hope.

  • lehnne

    if racist private language is real racism (the active and deliberate denying if human/civil rights based on race) then ACA sign ups (forget about implementation, displacement, funding) = policy success.

  • rheddles

    Perhaps too few believe the government’s enrollment numbers and are waiting for the facts.

    • Jim__L

      On the other hand, if the guys featured on the latest podcast are right, it doesn’t matter at all what the hoi polloi think… what the philosopher-kings want is what we get, and if we happen to like it, well that’s the best we can expect from our government.

      And if we don’t like it, we’ll have to put up with it anyway.

      Well then, I guess it’s a race between bloody revolution, collapse from domestic-overreach debts, and outside pressure from societies that actually play to win.

      • rheddles

        Check back on that with me in 2017.

        In the short run the philosopher kings get what they want, in the long run the hoi polloi get the philosopher kings they want, at least in most accountable republics. The hoi polloi doesn’t have the luxury of spare time to spend on politics. They’re too busy living their lives. Until the screw ups in the political world become so intrusive on their busy lives that they take drastic action to readjust the political realm. In autocracies these events are called revolutions, in republics watershed elections. I take the lack of credulence in the hoi polloi as an indication that we may be approaching a watershed, aka the end of the dreaded Blue Model.

  • Andrew Allison

    This is a recording: “After the March enrollment surge brought the number of people covered by the ACA up to 8 million,. . .” is, quite simply, false. Signing up for ACA coverage is not enrollment; somebody who signs up is not covered until they actually pay a premium (current estimates are that only about 80% of them will).

  • stanbrown

    The public hated the law before it was passed. [See Mass senate election of Brown.] They don’t hate it because Obama demonstrated he can’t manage a dog pound, but long before the rollout was botched. And the hatred for the law will only go up once the full extent of the lies becomes known. The cancellations so far are a drop in the bucket. The higher price tags are only starting. Just wait til everyone realizes that the 2500 in savings was total BS. So far, Obama has put off almost all of the pain. When that pain kicks in, the public will scream bloody murder.

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