Democrats have said for years that Obamacare will get more popular as people begin to see its benefits. Now we’ll find out whether that’s true.
Many of the Affordable Care Act’s most popular provisions take effect Wednesday. Beginning this week, insurers cannot use a preexisting condition as a reason to deny someone coverage or charge a higher premium. New insurance policies take effect that must cover certain benefits. And, biggest of all, new tax subsidies kick in to help low-income consumers cover the cost of their premiums.
All of this is happening amid stubbornly bad — and, according to some polls, falling — public approval of the health care law. The latest tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation put its favorability rating at 34 percent, compared with 48 percent who had an unfavorable view.
Obamacare’s approval ratings have been upside-down for years, and Democrats had all but given up trying to turn the numbers around until the law’s most popular provisions took effect.
The botched rollout of HealthCare.gov made matters worse. Approval of the law, and President Obama’s own approval ratings, sank as the federal enrollment website sputtered. Administration officials say their biggest concern during the site’s early troubles was that people would give up on the Obamacare “brand” and simply wouldn’t come back to the site once it began working.
That hasn’t happened.
According to the Health and Human Services Department, more than 975,000 people selected and enrolled in a plan through HealthCare.gov this month. The total for all 50 states is now above 2 million — still shy of the 3.3 million sign-ups HHS initially expected to receive by the end of the year, but rapidly picking up steam.
One potential problem for the administration, though, is that people don’t associate new benefits they might like with the health care law. As Democratic strategists have noted, coverage under the Affordable Care Act isn’t an easily identifiable benefit like Medicare or Social Security. It’s private insurance, paid for in part by a subsidy that goes directly to the insurance company.
Many individual pieces of the Affordable Care Act, including many of the policies that take effect Jan. 1, are popular on their own. The administration has already struggled with earlier benefits — namely rebates paid by insurance companies — that poll well but which people don’t seem to connect to Obamacare.
And that’s assuming people like the coverage they’ll get under the law. In order to keep premiums low, many insurance companies have limited the network of providers they’ll cover in new policies, meaning some people who had their plans canceled might not be able to keep their doctors. And consumers who benefited most from the pre-Obamacare individual market — young, healthy, reasonably affluent men — will see their premiums for coverage rise under the new rules.
If consumers don’t like the coverage they get, or don’t connect it to Obamacare, public approval could continue to sag, creating a drag on Democratic candidates in 2014.
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Just after President Obama finished his address to the DNC, Hillary Clinton walked out on stage to join him, so the better could share a few embraces, wave to the crowd—and let the cameras capture all the unity for posterity.
In a speech that began a bit like a State of the Union address, President Obama said the "country is stronger and more prosperous than it was" when he took office eight years ago. He then talked of battling Hillary Clinton for the nomination in 2008, and discovering her "unbelievable work ethic," before saying that no one—"not me, not Bill"—has ever been more qualified to be president. When his first mention of Donald Trump drew boos, he quickly admonished the crowd: "Don't boo. Vote." He then added that Trump is "not really a plans guy. Not really a facts guy, either."
Tim Kaine introduced himself to the nation tonight, devoting roughly the first half of his speech to his own story (peppered with a little of his fluent Spanish) before pivoting to Hillary Clinton—and her opponent. "Hillary Clinton has a passion for children and families," he said. "Donald Trump has a passion, too: himself." His most personal line came after noting that his son Nat just deployed with his Marine battalion. "I trust Hillary Clinton with our son's life," he said.
Michael Bloomberg said he wasn't appearing to endorse any party or agenda. He was merely there to support Hillary Clinton. "I don't believe that either party has a monopoly on good ideas or strong leadership," he said, before enumerating how he disagreed with both the GOP and his audience in Philadelphia. "Too many Republicans wrongly blame immigrants for our problems, and they stand in the way of action on climate change and gun violence," he said. "Meanwhile, many Democrats wrongly blame the private sector for our problems, and they stand in the way of action on education reform and deficit reduction." Calling Donald Trump a "dangerous demagogue," he said, "I'm a New Yorker, and a know a con when I see one."
Vice President Biden tonight called President Obama "one of the finest presidents we have ever had" before launching into a passionate defense of Hillary Clinton. "Everybody knows she's smart. Everybody knows she's tough. But I know what she's passionate about," he said. "There's only one person in this race who will help you. ... It's not just who she is; it's her life story." But he paused to train some fire on her opponent "That's not Donald Trump's story," he said. "His cynicism is unbounded. ... No major party nominee in the history of this country has ever known less."