WASHINGTON — Many opponents are not only rooting for the failure of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, they are doing what they can to make it fail, spreading fear about its impact and telling young people not to sign up. This is conduct unbecoming elected officials. It is one thing to oppose a federal law and work for its repeal, quite another to undermine it. It is the difference between predicting failure and working for failure.
The language used today partially echoes arguments made by Republicans against Social Security in 1935 and Medicare in 1965 about big government and socialized medicine, but those generally remained in the realm of criticism. A closer analogy is found with the most virulent opponents of the Vietnam War who crossed the line from dissent to making overt efforts that could bring about America’s defeat.
Meanwhile, President Obama took a victory lap on Tuesday, marking the enrollment of 7.1 million people for health insurance over the market exchanges put in place Obamacare. “The law is doing what it’s supposed to do; it’s working,” Obama exulted in his most upbeat public remarks in a long time about the law.
Critics predicted the administration would never meet its projected goal of signing up 7 million people by March 31st, but a last minute surge took the numbers over the top, and hundreds of thousands more will likely complete the process over the next days and weeks.
Other hurdles remain, from whether the nation’s supply of primary care doctors will be overwhelmed to potential hikes in premiums if the number of sign-ups doesn’t include enough young, healthy people, the so-called invincibles.
Obama said the dire scenarios promoted by critics have not been borne out by the facts. “Many of the tall tales have been debunked: there are still no death panels, Armageddon did not arrive,” Obama said, declaring that the law is here to stay and Republican efforts to repeal it over.
That may be wishful thinking. The GOP may not succeed in repealing Obamacare, certainly while he’s in office and has the veto. But Republicans are so dug in on their opposition to the law that they will likely continue to push repeal. It may be futile, but if they win the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016, they will have to do something to placate their base, even if it’s just superficial change.
The latest poll shows Obamacare at its highest level of popularity, 49 percent, still short of a majority. But when you dig into the numbers, three-quarters of Democrats feel positive about the law; only one in five Republicans has anything nice to say about Obamacare.
Almost half the states, 24 in all, have refused to expand the Medicaid program to cover the working poor even though the federal government pays the entire cost the first three years, and upwards of 90 percent of the cost thereafter. A handful of states with Republican governors have accepted Medicaid expansion – New Jersey, Ohio and Arizona – and there will be more over time as Obamacare becomes increasingly entrenched and less partisan.
Such tactics are legal and appropriate for opponents of a law. Disseminating false information and encouraging people not to sign up for health insurance is not. It is the difference between dissent and sabotage.