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As Obamacare Unfolds, Will Dems Unite?

by R. Carnavale December 17th, 2013 | Democratic Deliberations
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obama et al whAs 2013 draws to a close and many of the nation’s 47 million uninsured register for Obamacare, President Obama and Democratic Party leaders have told the rest of the party to fall in line in support of the new health care law. The federal HealthCare.gov site is now up and running relatively smoothly, so Obama and his team are encouraging incumbent Democrats in Congress to embrace the health care law, despite the fact that many of them are furious because their public opinion poll standings have taken a hit due to the millions of Americans who have received cancellation notices from their insurers and the unfortunate, glitch-filled launch of the HealthCare.gov website.

Though Obama’s own approval ratings have tanked since October 1st, which is when the federal health insurance marketplace first opened, Obama says he doesn’t care about the ratings — but his actions speak otherwise. With just 11 months to go before the critical 2014 elections, Obama is bringing his former senior adviser, Phil Schiliro, back on board to help with the White House’s outreach to a hostile Congress.

Other Dems are worried, too. The Senate Majority PAC has started an unusually early advertising campaign for incumbent and health care law supporter Sen. Kay Hagan in North Carolina, where Republican Gov. Pat McCreary has blocked Medicaid expansion because of concerns about the state budget’s not being able to afford the expansion in the long-run.

Given that a good number of voters from all parties either oppose or are on the fence about the Affordable Care Act, the GOP is playing on those sympathies to rally votes for Republican candidates who oppose the new law. To date, Republicans have spent nearly $10 million in anti-Obamacare advertising, especially in certain southern states where Democrat incumbents are weak enough to be toppled in 2014 if Republicans can float viable candidates.

The new law’s implementation is under attack for several reasons: First, far fewer Americans than expected (that is, a mere 364,682 vs. a projected 1.2 million as of November 30th) have enrolled for health care coverage for reasons varying from glitches on the Healthcare.gov website to the incredibly low penalties for NOT enrolling. In other words, currently, it’s a lot cheaper to pay the penalty ($95 for an individual lacking coverage) than to pay monthly health insurance premiums.

Second, insurance companies are using backdoor methods to dissuade already-ill patients from obtaining insurance by limiting their access to important treatment regimens.

Third, insurance companies, in order to remain solvent, must enroll enough young, healthy individuals to cover the medical costs of the unhealthiest five percent who account for 50 percent of all health-care costs. Yet, to date, most of those who have applied for health care coverage are older Americans with health problems.

Fourth, out-of-pocket pharmaceutical coverage under the new plans costs more than coverage under employer-paid health insurance policies, meaning Americans who need expensive drugs, such as people with multiple sclerosis and AIDS, are going to encounter big bills right away.

The pressing question for Democrats is will Obamacare work well enough soon enough to unite the party and win votes in 2014?

(White House photo)

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