Americans Love Obamacare

When I first saw the article titled The Truth is, Americans Love Obamacare in the Los Angeles Times, courtesy of Real Clear Politics, I thought that the author, Michael Hiltzik, must be delusional. After all, almost every poll has shown that Americans hate Obamacare, usually by fairly wide margins. As I read the article, I saw that Mr. Hiltzik is not delusional, but instead is displaying the sort of condescension often seen on the left when large numbers of Americans do not support their policies. This is the sort of attitude that leads them to write books called What’s the Matter with Kansas, in which they explain that the people who oppose them simply are too stupid to know what is good for them. Here is the article.

Among the many delusions guiding the Republican campaign against the Affordable Care Act, surely the most consistent is the idea that the public detests the law and is clamoring for repeal.

Here’s the truth: The American public loves Obamacare, with as many as 88% in favor, according to one survey.

How can that be, when polls regularly show a plurality of respondents with an “unfavorable” view of Obamacare? (In a September Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll, the difference was 43% unfavorable to 39% favorable.)

The answer, of course, is that most Americans have no idea what’s in the law. In the Kaiser survey, 57% said they didn’t have enough information to know how it would affect them. When they’re asked how they feel about specific provisions, however, they’re almost always thunderously in favor.

Here are figures from Kaiser’s March 2013 poll:

Tax credits for small businesses to buy insurance: 88% in favor.

Closing the Medicare drug benefit doughnut hole: 81% in favor.

Extension of dependent coverage to offspring up to age 26: 76% in favor.

Expanding Medicaid: 71% in favor.

Ban on exclusions for preexisting conditions: 66% in favor.

Employer mandate: 57% in favor.

If you agree with those provisions, congratulations: You love Obamacare. Yet when respondents are asked how they feel about “Obamacare,” they’re against it.

The one provision that always polls negatively is the individual mandate. Unfortunately, the mandate is necessary if you’re going to outlaw exclusions for preexisting conditions. Without it, you’d bankrupt every health insurer in the country, because people wouldn’t enroll until they’re sick.

The only possible conclusion from all this is that the law’s opponents have succeeded brilliantly in marketing “Obamacare” as something it’s not, and its defenders have failed miserably at communicating what it is.

But that defines the history of Republican-versus-Democratic messaging over the last couple of decades. It’s the same stunt that brought us “death panels,” or that redefined the estate tax as the “death tax.”

The key moment was the 2010 midterm election, when Democrats ran away from their healthcare achievement as if it were poison, leaving it to their GOP opponents to place their own brand on the law; they should have stood up proudly for their handiwork.

The harvest is today’s government shutdown, which is predicated on the voters’ supposed hatred for a law they actually support.

See? Americans love Obamacare. They are all just too dumb to know it.

Mr. Hiltzik is correct in stating that without the individual mandate, none of the rest of Obamacace works. Insurers do not exclude people with preexisting conditions because they are run by mean people who like to torture puppies and kittens. They might very well be mean people who torture animals, but they know perfectly well that if they didn’t exclude preexisting conditions, no one would bother to get health insurance until they had such a condition. If you are going to make health insurance available to all, you are going to have to make people get it while they are healthy.

It is possible that rather than being fools who have been taken in by the Republican’s brand on the law, the Americans who oppose Obamacare may be quite reasonably concluding that however much they may like certain aspects of Obamacare, they are not willing to be compelled to purchase health insurance, whether they want it or not, in order to gain those parts they like. They may have all too clear an idea of what the law entails. The Democrats who ran away from their achievement might have known a thing or two about what the people thought that Hiltzik has been missing. After all, they jobs depend on how well they know what the voters want.

As for the death panels, I have stated before that death panels are going to have to be part of any healthcare system in which the government provides “free” healthcare. If Obamacare works out the way I think it will, it will not make healthcare more affordable. The combination of increasing demand and stable or decreasing supply will cause costs to skyrocket. If the free market is not used to balance supply and demand through pricing close to the actual costs, than healthcare will have to be rationed by the government or by the providers. This means that people will have to be refused treatments that are not deemed worthwhile, thus death panels. It doesn’t matter if Obama and every single Democrat supporting Obamacare have no intention of ever instituting death panels. The economics of the situation will ultimately demand it.

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