Topics: Obamacare

Americans will hold Obamacare responsible for health care system's problems

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Beltway Confidential,Congress,Philip Klein,Obamacare,Health Care,2014 Elections,Campaigns

At the time President Obama pushed his health care law, 80 percent of Americans were already satisfied with their medical care. This was what motivated his rhetoric that under his program, people who liked their plans and their doctors could keep them.

But the reality of Obamacare is that it seeks to make the system work better for some Americans by imposing burdens on other Americans. The hope among Democrats was that those who benefited from the law would far outnumber those who had their care disrupted.

As of now, it’s the worst of both worlds for Obamacare. On the one hand, millions of Americans have seen disruptions to the health care experience — such as losing their coverage, doctors, and seeing their premiums spike. But the botched rollout of the insurance exchanges has made it harder for potential beneficiaries to actually benefit.

A new AP-Gfk poll finds that:

[N]early half of those with job-based or other private coverage say their policies will be changing next year — mostly for the worse. Nearly 4 in 5 (77 percent) blame the changes on the Affordable Care Act, even though the trend toward leaner coverage predates the law’s passage.

Sixty-nine percent say their premiums will be going up, while 59 percent say annual deductibles or co-payments are increasing.

Only 21 percent of those with private coverage said their plan is expanding to cover more types of medical care, though coverage of preventive care at no charge to the patient has been required by the law for the past couple of years.

At the same time that these Americans are experiencing disruption, those who were supposed to benefit the most from the law -- the uninsured -- are turning against it. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll has found that “Less than a quarter -- 24 percent -- of uninsured Americans think the health care law is a good idea, and half think it's a bad idea.”

Back in March 2010, just as President Obama's health care program passed through Congress, I wrote in Kaiser Health News that “once the bill is implemented, lawmakers who voted for Obamacare and those who advocated for it will now own the problems with the nation's health care system.”

Given that the law was sold as a way to fix a broken health care system, rightly or wrongly, the law is going to be blamed for any persistent problems. It’s impossible for Americans to sort out whether a given change took place as a result of the law or whether it would have happened anyway. If they don’t like a change to their health care situation that occurred after a giant new law went into effect, they’re going to blame that giant new law.

If I were a vulnerable Democrat incumbent in 2014, I wouldn’t want to pin my re-election hopes on being able to convince angry voters that changes that they hate would have happened with or without the health care law. “Correlation doesn’t equal causation” is not exactly a winning campaign slogan.

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