GUEST COMMENTARY: Why voters are finished believing 'Obamacare' promises

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 | 12:00 p.m. CST

In April, the Real Clear Politics average of polls showed that 47 percent of Americans opposed Obamacare, while 41 percent supported it — a 6 percentage point edge for opponents of the president's health care law, which at the time was still months away from implementation.

The latest average of polls, less than two months into the law's rollout, shows 57 percent opposing Obamacare, with 38 percent supporting — an enormous 19-point gap between opponents and supporters.

The two numbers explain why Republicans made little progress when they tried to warn Americans about Obamacare. For years, GOP warnings about Obamacare were about something that had not yet arrived. People had not experienced it, did not have friends who had experienced it and didn't fully understand what it was. Many tuned out the Republican alarms.

Now that has changed. Millions of Americans are unhappy with what they have experienced under Obamacare: canceled policies, higher premiums and sky-high deductibles. They are also much more likely to believe predictions of future problems. They've seen what has already happened and now know it can get worse.

So how can it get worse? So far, Obamacare has upended the individual market for health insurance, which covers about 10 million people. The next step, according to the respected health care analyst Robert Laszewski, will likely come in the small-employer market, meaning businesses with anywhere between two and 50 employees. That covers about 45 million people.

"Obamacare is impacting the small-group insurance market in many of the same ways as the individual health insurance market," Laszewski writes. Under Obamacare, the small employers who offer their workers health coverage will be "required to comply with the same essential benefit mandates, age rating changes, and pre-existing condition reforms the individual market faces. That means essentially all small-group policies cannot continue as they are — they have to be discontinued."

When the individual market began to roil, Obamacare's defenders were quick to point out that it was a relatively small part — about 5 percent — of the total U.S. insurance market. The assurance was that everyone else would either be unaffected by Obamacare or benefit from the new law.

It now looks like that will not be the case. In the small-group market, Laszewski predicts many employers will use a feature in the law that allows them to keep their current plans for about a year. But then: "They will likely increase employee premiums and deductibles to keep the wolf from the door for maybe another year." And after that: They will "hope for a rescue party." Not a particularly encouraging scenario for those 45 million people in the market.

And that is why there is more and more talk about Obamacare's "winners" and "losers." It has become impossible to defend President Obama's promise that his health care scheme would make the system work "better for everybody." It's also impossible to defend his claim that Obamacare would "cut the average family's premium by about $2,500 per year." And now even Americans who receive health coverage through their jobs are growing worried that Obama's if-you-like-your-coverage-you-can-keep-it promise, proven false for millions in the individual market, will prove just as false for them.

So the unavoidable truth is that Obamacare will hurt millions of Americans; the only question is how many. And that has caused some observers to take new note of the law's basic structure. "The redistribution of wealth has always been a central feature of the law," writes The New York Times' John Harwood. "Throughout the process, (the law's authors) knew that some level of redistributing wealth — creating losers as well as winners — was inescapable."

The problem is, President Obama and his Democratic allies neglected to tell the public. And now, when the bad news about Obamacare piles up day after day, none of it sounds like what Obama promised.

It's taking a toll on the president's ratings. In a recent CNN survey, just 40 percent said they believe Obama "can manage the government effectively." But much more importantly, it has entirely changed the way people view Obamacare.

In the three and a half years between March 23, 2010, the day Obamacare was signed into law, and Oct. 1, the day its implementation got underway, millions of voters, no matter what doubts they might have had, thought it best to give Obamacare a chance to work. That's why they didn't respond to the GOP's dire warnings. But now, they've seen what Obamacare can mean in their lives. And they won't be buying any more promises.

Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner. This is a syndicated column reprinted with permission. 

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Mary Douglass December 4, 2013 | 12:47 p.m.

So...explain how my experience is exactly what was promised?

Fear mongers, all...

(Report Comment)
Ed Lane December 4, 2013 | 12:59 p.m.

Ovomit and his band of clowns has lost ALL creditability with me. His lies are starting to stack up on his skinny butt.

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote December 4, 2013 | 2:59 p.m.

We should, perhaps, wait until the law is fully implemented (2014) before judging it a success or failure. I would deem it a success if it increases the number of insured and is revenue neutral in aggregate. We won't know this until we have the data to assess it after the law has been fully implemented. I realize that some do not think think this is a suitable metric, as they are encouraging people to forego purchasing insurance on the exchanges I wonder what alternative metric(s) Mr. York and his fellow conservative activists think we should use to evaluate the program?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams December 4, 2013 | 3:55 p.m.

The implementation of this program has been a fiasco. It reflects upon this thing called "competency". This has been superbly incompetent.

The webpage WILL get fixed. The method of payment WILL get fixed. People WILL get enrolled. People who have never had insurance before, plus those in lower income groups eligible for a silver plan (to get subsidies) are going to understand that each month they have to write a check for their portion of the premium. These same people will also soon understand that subsidies do not pay for deductables ($5K+) and will also understand subsidies do not pay for out-of-pocket expenses. People will learn of the terms "in network" and "out of network". Further, these people....and perhaps a majority of the rest of us...will find we cannot keep our traditional doctors or hospitals. Finally, these people will find out about these things when they are asked to pay full amounts until their deductibles are met when they next visit the doctor's office. I can hear it now, "But, I have insurance!" The reply, "Yes, you do, but your deductible isn't met, yet."

Many will just end up not paying their premiums on time and will lose their insurance. They'll just end up back in the ER. Nothing will change, except this experience will be the experience that keeps on giving.....every month when premium bills arrive, and every time a person goes to the doctor.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams December 4, 2013 | 4:02 p.m.

Chris: I would deem it a success if it increases the number of insured and is revenue neutral in aggregate...

Does revenue neutral mean it's a success if we're just forcibly exchanging money from one person to another?

I do not consider it a success if this program insures a minority portion of our population and makes the life of a majority frantic, upsetting, and costly.

As I said, this will be the gift that keeps on giving. There will be no "changing the topic" or going "off topic" by this President or his media. The reminder will be EACH MONTH to the check writers in each individual voter home in the US. Each month.......

We were spoon fed a series of outright lies, and we were spoon fed lies by omission. I don't know which one was worse but, politically, I suspect the latter is worse when it comes to voter memories.

(Report Comment)
Tony Black December 5, 2013 | 8:34 a.m.

When you start with Ovomit, you lose all credibility to add to a meaningful discussion. Republicans have been sounding the fear alarm ever since Obama was elected. I still have my insurance, nothing has changed. I know no one who has had thier insurance canceled. They are out there, but I haven't met one yet. In fact, I know several "hair-on-fire" types who have railed against the ACA, but immediately enrolled thier under 26 kids on thier policy. Have any of you read about premiums increasing at a much slower rate than before the ACA? And ACA has been "killing jobs" even before it was implemented? And what, exactly, is the Republican health care plan, besides doing nothing and letting the insurance companies do just what the right is claiming the ACA will do. I still have my guns and bibles stacked by the front door because my Muslim, anti-gun president is coming for them. They are getting dusty.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams December 5, 2013 | 10:11 a.m.

Yep, Tony. You're unaffected, so that's proof the remaining 310,000,000 are all hunky-dory.

You must be in the insulation business.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams December 5, 2013 | 10:28 a.m.

There's many folks in the US that will be helped by the ACA, those who have been unable to get insurance due to pre-existing conditions. I'm glad of this.

There's also a lot of uninsured folks who have been, and will remain, irreponsible. Some will sign up (maybe) because they have the impression "it's free!", but will fail to pay premiums when it's found there is no free. They will fail to pay deductibles. They will be (should I say "remain"?) deadbeats. Most won't sign up at all, and that includes the "invincibles". This latter group is busy forming families and starting careers on lower-end salaries, and they won't part with monthly insurance money when they are healthy and could spend money on other stuff. A wise choice? No. But, there ya go.......

Hospital ERs will see no change in attendance.

For the irresponsible folks, this is simply another redistribution effort that goes to pay monthly expenses to get from this day to the next, with no changes in behavior leading to life's growth. For that reason alone, it will fail...not because the law will fail, but because the people will fail.

(Report Comment)

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