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Trump isn't the only one confused about the state of 'Obamacare'

Donald Trump falsely believes he's repealed the Affordable Care Act. Nearly half of all Republicans agree. Maybe their confusion isn't such a bad thing.
A man holds a sign directing people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare in Miami, Fla in 2015. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)
A man holds a sign directing people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare in Miami, Fla in 2015.

Shortly after the 2010 midterms, in which Republican took the House majority, the GOP-led chamber held a vote on a measure to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Not surprisingly, it passed, leading Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) to declare with pride on Twitter, "WE JUST REPEALED OBAMACARE!"

Wilson, of course, was badly confused. The bill died in the Democratic-led Senate, faced obvious White House opposition, and was soon forgotten. Some on the far-right may have preferred to think that the reform law had been destroyed, but reality told another story.

Nearly eight years later, Donald Trump spent last week bragging that he and his GOP brethren had "essentially" repealed the Affordable Care Act. Like Joe Wilson's 2010 claim, the president's boast didn't really make any sense, but Trump nevertheless seemed convinced that he'd achieved something important: at least in his mind, Obamacare was no more.

Vox's Sarah Kliff noted yesterday that the president isn't the only one who's struggling with the details.

One-third of American adults believe that President Trump has successfully repealed Obamacare, a new poll from the Economist and YouGov finds.The poll of 1,000 adults shows that 31 percent believe Trump has repealed the Affordable Care Act, 49 percent say he hasn't, and 21 percent are unsure.Of those who identify as Republican voters, 44 percent say that Trump has repealed Obamacare.

At a certain level, this is kind of embarrassing. The public should have a clearer understanding of the difference between trying to repeal a law and successfully repealing a law. I suspect misleading presidential rhetoric has contributed to broad misunderstandings, but that doesn't fully explain such widespread confusion.

That said, as a political matter, I'm not convinced this is a bad thing for health care advocates.

If Trump believes the ACA has been repealed, and much of the Republican Party's base also believes the ACA has been repealed, maybe everyone else should just play along? Perhaps the American mainstream can simply let the right believe this falsehood in the hopes that Trump and his allies will find something else to do and leave the remaining elements of the Affordable Care Act alone?

The potential downside, of course, is that if consumers are led to believe the ACA has been destroyed, it might affect enrollment totals in adverse ways, but the latest evidence suggests this year's open-enrollment period was quite successful. Plenty of consumers understand the value of ignoring the political noise.

How about this: the next time Trump claims to have repealed the health care law, everyone can simply patronize him a bit: "Sure you did, Mr. President. Congratulations on a job well done. That rascally Obamacare didn't stand a chance against you."