Healthcare Implications for 2014 Midterm Elections

This past week, government did something that many people thought it incapable of doing:  It worked.  The Affordable Care Act, Obamacare if you’re new, met its March 31st enrollment deadline.  With over seven million enrollees, the Obama administration triumphed in another battle to ensure healthcare for every citizen. Healthcare is fixed, hang the mission accomplished banner and let’s all go home.  Except, this good news is just a milestone along the way, not the destination.

The law is far from perfect, as people on both sides of the aisle can attest, albeit for different reasons.  After the horrendous start to the ACA website, this relatively quick rebound is heartening for someone who still believes that government can be an effective force of good. Being able to admit your mistakes and then fix them is certainly a rare bit of humility in Washington.

People Want Healthcare:

Opponents of Obamacare (read: Republicans) were hopeful that there would be a failure to launch scenario that did not materialize.  The quick-death spiral period is over, which should go a long way to hurt the Republican message about this law being a disaster from the start.

The government met its goal for initial sign ups, but that issue is nuanced and needs further examination.  While most Republicans will say the books were cooked and the number is false, there is merit in questioning the amount of enrollees.  In a Huffington Post news article, the figure of 7.1 million was analyzed in such a way that offers insight.

7.1 million is low because:

  • This number doesn’t have the most updated totals from 14 states and the District of Columbia. This is due to activity on state level exchange websites, which then feed into healthcare.gov

  • This number doesn’t include pending applications that will be resolved after the deadline

  • This number doesn’t count people who bought new Obamacare compliant insurance from a private carrier.

7.1 million is high because:

  • This number only accounts for those who signed up, not those who paid their first premium and are thus eligible for coverage.  To calm the right’s fear of more takers, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that the amount of enrollees who have paid was between 80-90%.

  • This number doesn’t reflect those who signed up for Obamacare but received jobs and moved onto their employers plans.

So it seems the 7.1 million number will fluctuate a slight amount once more research is done and data has been collected, but theres another number that affects this milestone.  For insurance to work, there needs to be healthy people paying into the system that might not use their max allowances in order for less healthy people to use what they need.  This is called compassion, to others ‘love thy neighbor’, and to some ‘tyrannical socialism’.

The key block of young, healthy people is the 18-34 demographic.  According to the Washington Post’s coverage, the White House wanted 40% of all sign ups to come from this demo.  Unfortunately, it seems the young and healthy only made up about 25% of those enrolled.  This is not ideal for keeping premiums down but the ACA has a provision to subsidize higher costs to make up for this expected gap. This bit of weakness will be seized upon by Republicans and exploited for the 2014 elections.

It’s a Bad Law Because We Said So:

The 2014 Midterm election will focus on Obamacare and how it is ruining the country.  It will likely be an effective message for Republicans, yet is the same exact message they espoused during the 2010 elections.  But let’s take a quick step back for a minute.

It’s four years later and the message is still the same, no progress has been made at all in achieving their goal.  How can their constituents have any confidence that their representatives will succeed this time around?  Spoiler Alert: Even if Republicans regain the Senate, they will not repeal Obamacare.  The only way that is remotely possible is if they win the White House in 2016 and sacrifice all other goals and the economy’s momentum to go back to an even more broken system. It is often said that every vote counts but a vote to repeal Obamacare is useless.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the tactic used by Republicans in the 2014 elections will not change because of the deadline success.  They haven’t changed in four years so why start now?  To a Republican, if your electorate is confused it’s not because they don’t understand you, its because you aren’t yelling often enough.  They can, of course, poke every hole possible in the 7.1 million figure, and some conservative pundits have already claimed malicious fraud by the White House.  They will shout about how a lack of young enrollees will make premiums rise which is correct.  But don’t forget, premiums already rise every single year.

Repeal and Replace was a popular maxim for Republicans, but they didn’t have a viable strategy for either.  It is misleading to capture votes by ensuring Obamacare’s imminent repeal as evidenced by the Republican anthem:  “If at first you don’t succeed try 49 more times.”

A few weeks ago the House cast it’s 50th vote to repeal Obamacare. Someone should get these guys a commemorative plate for that feat alone but, if the stars align, and Obamacare is in fact repealed, what then?  They believed it would fail from the beginning, so why weren’t they there with their own plan to heal the nation’s woes?

It is most likely because there is no plan and instead a reversion back to the same horrid program we had before.  In obvious efforts to gain traction for a presidential nomination, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal just released a proposal that will slide right into place after Obamacare is repealed.  While the ideas are recycled, ineffective, and a step backwards, at least he came up with a tangible idea.

Only time will tell how the law fairs and, consequently, how elections are won.  Improvements will need to be made, especially with an entire party trying as hard as they can to capsize the ship. For the 2014 midterm elections, Democrats should convey three major points:

  1. Repeal is not possible at this time.

  2. Republicans are trying to kill medicaid expansion. They are doing so to hurt the overall effectiveness of government healthcare.  Make no mistake, they are making healthcare less accessible to people because they don’t think they deserve it.

  3. Republican politicians have a serious lack of compassion by repealing and taking away people’s insurance.

If Democrats focus on the issues mentioned above, they will be putting out a good message.  Unfortunately it will probably go unheard by ears attached to already made up minds, but it is a fact that the amount of enrollees in Obamacare is a triumph for the President and his party.  Perhaps such a boon can help Democrats hold onto some seats in November.

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