Can Democrats use Obamacare as a win in time for the midterm elections?

The poll numbers tell you everything you need to know about the political implications of the Affordable Care Act.

David Bowen

Global healthcare unit head, Hill+Knowlton Strategies
Career highlights include a stint as Malaria No More CEO and as a key aide to Sen. Ted Kennedy

Let’s review the story on the Affordable Care Act. Democrats, in a terrific display of resolve, succeeded in enacting a law that accomplished a goal of progressive politics for almost a century: bringing quality healthcare to millions of Americans, despite unrelenting, and often venomous opposition from Republicans.

Yes, there have been stumbles in its implementation, but the prediction was that 7 million Americans would receive coverage through health exchanges, and many more through Medicaid. And that’s what has happened, with indications that the program will strengthen.  

All this – and Democrats are the ones who should fear the ACA in November? Really? Let’s look at the other side of the aisle.

Republicans have voted dozens of times to repeal the ACA. Whose healthcare is it that they want to revoke? Is it the recent college graduate who can now stay on his parents’ plan? – or the mom with diabetes who can now get the coverage she needs because her condition no longer bars her from coverage? 

In the summer of 2009, I accompanied Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA) to a town hall meeting in Johnstown, PA. A raucous audience hushed when a young woman spoke about her husband. She said he had to go without his cardiac medicine so they could afford prenatal care for her pregnancy. He then suffered a fatal heart attack on the night she gave birth.

You could have heard pin drop when she finished her story.

I’d invite Republicans who want to repeal the ACA to visit Johnstown and explain to her why they think she does not deserve healthcare.

Does the ACA need adjustments and improvements? Sure, but so does every major law. Each year, bills are introduced in Congress to tweak provisions of Medicare, but they are designed to improve a program that has become woven into American life, as the ACA now is.

Democrats shouldn’t run from the ACA in November. They should embrace it – and force Republicans to explain whose healthcare they want to take away and why.

James Winslow

Senior director of government affairs, Sumitomo Corp. of America
Liaison between Sumitomo and federal government

Whether Democrats can win in the 2014 midterm elections or make a win out of the ACA in time for the 2014 midterms are two different questions.

While I don’t know of anyone who would argue that the House is in play this year, whether Republicans can take the Senate will depend on a number of factors, most importantly which candidates make it through the primaries.

I cannot see Obamacare being a plus for Democrats under any circumstances. Even though the president announced that more than 7 million people have signed up, the administration has dug itself too deep a hole on the issue; one that it will not be able to climb out of by Election Day.

The negatives surrounding the ACA are well known – a botched website rollout; the inability to keep one’s own doctor, despite promises by the president himself; millions of canceled plans; a failure to attract healthy, young adults; the prospect of rising premiums; and the fact that a majority of cancer centers are not covered under the ACA.

Obamacare remains politically unpopular – approval ratings run as low as 24% – and the truth is that the numbers around Obama could fall even further once waivers expire. 

The approval numbers for both the president and his hallmark healthcare law could drop even more once we find out the details behind the 7 million figure, such as how many of these people actually paid, how many were those who had their policies canceled, and how many actually come from the 48 million who had no health insurance pre-Obamacare.  

Democrats on the campaign trail have tried to distance themselves from the act, and this will continue. Even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi declined to call it a winning campaign issue and tried to turn the focus to jobs.

The real question is not whether the ACA can become a winning issue – because it can’t. Rather it is whether the Democratic leadership can work to neutralize the negative impact of Obamacare with independents and conservative Democrats come November.


PRWeek’s View
The poll numbers tell you everything you need to know about the political implications of the Affordable Care Act. The law is very unpopular with most people and Democrats are unlikely to embrace the law en masse this election cycle.

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