Don’t call it a comeback

Updated
Cathey Park, from Cambridge, Mass., shows the words "I Love Obamacare" on her cast for her broken wrist as she waits for President Barack Obama to speak about the federal health care law, Oct. 30, 2013 in Boston.
Cathey Park, from Cambridge, Mass., shows the words “I Love Obamacare” on her cast for her broken wrist as she waits for President Barack Obama to speak about the federal health care law, Oct. 30, 2013 in Boston.
Photo by Charles Dharapak/AP
Congressional Republicans haven’t been shy about their 2014 plans. The entire election-year strategy comes down to obsessive opposition to the Affordable Care Act – the party assumes the law is unpopular, unworkable, and an electoral albatross for Democrats nationwide. Republicans don’t need to govern, the argument goes, they just need to wait for “Obamacare” to implode.
 
If party strategists worked on a Plan B, it might be time to dust off the file. As Greg Sargent noted this morning, “There are increasing signs that the GOP’s total war opposition to Obamacare is becoming tougher to sustain.
 
Consider, for example, the latest enrollment news.
The most recent data indicates that approximately 3.0 million people have now enrolled in a private health insurance plan through the Federal and State-based Marketplaces since October 1.
 
With millions transitioning to new coverage already, we continue to see strong interest nationwide from consumers who want access to quality, affordable coverage. As our outreach efforts kick into even higher gear, we anticipate these numbers will continue to grow, particularly as we reach even more uninsured young adults so that they know that new options and new ways to help eligible individuals pay for their premium are now available, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
Note, this doesn’t include the more than 6 million Americans who’ve been able to enroll in Medicaid since the start of the open-enrollment period. What’s more, keep in mind that the enrollment totals are expected to continue to grow – uninsured consumers who don’t choose a plan by the end of March risk facing a fine, so we may yet see another upsurge.
 
Josh Green added that before Oct. 1, the Congressional Budget Office predicted that 3.3 million people would sign up for insurance through the exchanges by New Year’s Eve. Thanks largely to the now-infamous website troubles, that didn’t happen. That said, “Obamacare appears to be gaining ground. It’s nearly reached that 3.3 million figure two-thirds of the way through January. It no longer seems inconceivable that 7 million could sign up by March 31st, as the CBO had originally projected.”
 
For those fighting against health care, the news actually gets a little worse.
 
Utah’s Republican governor, Gary Herbert, announced yesterday that he’s finally prepared to accept Medicaid expansion. There are some ambiguities to the position – the governor doesn’t want to reject the funds, but some details need to be worked out as to how the policy will advance in Utah – but the state will expand Medicaid and cover more of the uninsured.  Herbert’s decision will reportedly help bring coverage to 111,000 low-income adults in the state.
 
The announcement also helps ensure that most American states will now participate in Medicaid expansion, in one form or another. The number may yet soon grow, with Republicans policymakers in Michigan and Iowa giving the policy another look in recent weeks.
 
Jonathan Bernstein added that as a long-term proposition, this is all the more heartening for ACA proponents because Medicaid expansion appears to be “a one-way street” – in states that have already adopted the policy, Republican candidates aren’t running on a platform of undoing what’s been done.
 
Taken together, the news for the right is, well, pretty horrible. Enrollment totals are growing steadily; Medicaid is expanding access to millions; the rate of uninsured is dropping; consumers who thought they’d hate the ACA now see the law as a “godsend”; healthcare.gov is stable and passing its security tests “with flying colors”; the insurance industry is cautiously optimistic; and the list of Republican governors who claim to hate “Obamacare” but continue to embrace Medicaid expansion continues to grow.
 
Heck, Mitch McConnell has even been reduced to running ads touting his efforts to bring health care to people in need.
 
To the profound disappointment of conservatives everywhere, it appears the scheduled ACA implosion is on indefinite hold.
 
Looking ahead, this might well be the point at which some start talking up the “Obamacare comeback,” and the argument will at least have some ample basis in fact. The ACA was struggling badly a few months ago, and it looks to be in much better shape now.
 
But let’s not forget what many of us were saying at the time: be patient. The problems are surmountable. What’s broken can be fixed.
 
The recent progress, in other words, isn’t some remarkable fluke the White House achieved through a Hail Mary pass. Rather, what we’re seeing now is progress that we expected to see all along.
 

Affordable Care Act and Obamacare

Don't call it a comeback

Updated