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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"North Korea said on Friday it might test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean after President Donald Trump vowed to destroy the reclusive country, with leader Kim Jong Un promising to make Trump pay dearly for his threats. Kim did not specify what action he would take against the United States or Trump, whom he called a 'mentally deranged U.S. dotard' in the latest bout of insults the two leaders have traded in recent weeks."
President Trump this afternoon announced another round of sanctions on North Korea, calling the regime "a continuing threat." The executive order, which Trump relayed to Congress, bans any ship or plane that has visited North Korea from visiting the United States within 180 days. The order also authorizes sanctions on any financial institution doing business with North Korea, and permits the secretaries of State and the Treasury to sanction any person involved in trading with North Korea, operating a port there, or involved in a variety of industries there.
In response to a reporter's question, President Trump said "he’ll be looking to impose further financial penalties on North Korea over its nuclear and ballistic tests. ... The U.N. has passed two resolutions recently aimed at squeezing the North Korean economy by cutting off oil, labor and exports to the nation." Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that South Korea's unification ministry is sending an $8m aid package aimed at infants and pregnant women in North Korea. The "humanitarian gesture [is] at odds with calls by Japan and the US for unwavering economic and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang."
President Trump on Tuesday night met with UN Secretary Guterres and President of the General Assembly Miroslav Lajcak. In both cases, as per releases from the White House, Trump pressed them on the need to reform the UN bureaucracy.