Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday touted Michigan's successful Medicaid expansion as part of his re-election bid, saying 63,000 more low-income adults have signed up than projected this year, with [three-and-a-half] months left. The Republican governor said about 385,000 enrolled between April, when the Healthy Michigan program launched, and Monday. His administration had expected 322,000 signups by year's end. "At that level, we're adding over 9,000 patients a week," Snyder said at an endorsement event at the Michigan State Medical Society, an East Lansing-based professional association of physicians. "It's outstanding progress."
Earlier this year, the Republican game plan for health care was pretty straightforward: attack "Obamacare" constantly, make it the centerpiece of the 2014 cycle, and wait for the inevitable victories to roll in.
The very idea that we'd see a Republican governor bragging about Affordable Care Act benefits -- in the final stretch of a tough re-election campaign, no less -- seemed hard to fathom. And yet, here we are (thanks to my colleague Nick Tuths for the heads-up).
Progress, that is, implementing a key element of President Obama's signature domestic-policy achievement.
There are, of course, multiple angles to this. Michigan's Eclectablog, for example, noted that local Tea Partiers are not at all pleased by the sight of a Republican governor bragging about ACA implementation. For that matter, local Democrats are eager to remind the state that Snyder was not initially an eager proponent of Medicaid expansion, and the governor's delays cost the state money.
Rep. Mark Schauer (D), Snyder's very competitive rival, said Michigan's slow adoption of Medicaid expansion ended up costing the state roughly $600 million.
To be sure, these details matter. But I'm nevertheless struck by the broader political circumstances.
We've talked quite a bit lately about the changes in the prevailing winds surrounding the politics of health care, but I don't think it's fully sunk in for the political establishment just yet.
It was just earlier this year that the Affordable Care Act was perceived as a disaster of epic proportions. It would not only destroy Obama's presidency, it was a Watergate-meets-Katrina catastrophe that threatened the very nature of progressive governance. For the GOP, running against "Obamacare" would be their first, second, and third priorities in the 2014 midterms.
But with 47 days to go before Election Day, one of the nation's most vulnerable Republican governors is running on ACA benefits. Why? Because he sees it as a political winner.
As for Michigan Republicans' hopes of using Schauer's vote for the Affordable Care Act against him in the fall, that's going to be awfully difficult now.