Are Americans Ready To Stop Talking About Obamacare?

The public may be “bored” over Obamacare, but it still wants the government to focus on health care reform in 2014.

National Journal
Marina Koren
Jan. 8, 2014, 9:57 a.m.

The Left is en­er­gized about tack­ling in­come in­equal­ity. Now they just have to fig­ure out how to get every­one else on board.

Sen. Chuck Schu­mer, D-N.Y., said Tues­day that a suc­cess­ful vote on un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance sug­gests that for politi­cians, is­sues like the de­fi­cit and the Af­ford­able Care Act “are be­com­ing less im­port­ant than help­ing the av­er­age Amer­ic­an get by.” Oth­er Sen­ate Demo­crats think this shift means good things for new min­im­um-wage laws, and Pres­id­ent Obama is set to make in­come in­equal­ity the fo­cal point of his State of the Uni­on ad­dress later this month.

The av­er­age Amer­ic­an, however, needs some more con­vin­cing. Health care re­form should be law­makers’ top pri­or­ity in 2014, ac­cord­ing to an As­so­ci­ated Press-NORC Cen­ter for Pub­lic Af­fairs Re­search pub­lic opin­ion sur­vey pub­lished last week.

The is­sue topped 52 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans’ list of res­ol­u­tions for the New Year. Forty-two per­cent chose un­em­ploy­ment, and 39 per­cent picked the eco­nomy as the biggest con­cern. Thirty-one per­cent said politi­cians should fo­cus on the fed­er­al de­fi­cit.

Im­mig­ra­tion re­form, which Obama has vowed to pass this year, was cited as the top pri­or­ity by just 28 per­cent of re­spond­ents.

For some, un­em­ploy­ment and the eco­nomy are in­ex­tric­ably linked. Com­bined, the is­sues sur­pass health care from in terms of pub­lic con­cern, which may sug­gest that Amer­ic­ans are ready to put eco­nom­ic in­equal­ity ahead of oth­er is­sues. As The Wash­ing­ton Post‘s Sarah Kliff wrote Wed­nes­day, “Amer­ic­ans are bored with Obama­care.” Maybe they’re bored enough to ree­valu­ate their to-do list for the gov­ern­ment.

But with the mess of the health care roll-out still fresh in people’s minds, the is­sue is un­likely to budge from the polit­ic­al cen­ter stage just yet, at least for a few more months. Re­pub­lic­ans are cer­tainly still in­ter­ested, and look­ing to bundle in­come in­equal­ity and un­em­ploy­ment is­sues and sweep both in­to a re­sur­gence of anti-Obama­care talk­ing points.

Ac­cord­ing to last week’s poll, 76 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans are not con­fid­ent that the gov­ern­ment will make real pro­gress on any is­sue fa­cing the na­tion in 2014. That bleak out­look, com­bined with loom­ing Re­pub­lic­an road­b­locks, means Demo­crats face an up­hill battle kick­ing health care re­form off stage.

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