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The truth is, Americans love Obamacare

Among the many delusions guiding the Republican campaign against the Affordable Care Act, surely the most consistent is the idea that the public detests the law and is clamoring for repeal.

Here's the truth: The American public loves Obamacare, with as many as 88% in favor, according to one survey.

How can that be, when polls regularly show a plurality of respondents with an "unfavorable" view of Obamacare? (In a September Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll, the difference was 43% unfavorable to 39% favorable.) 

The answer, of course, is that most Americans have no idea what's in the law. In the Kaiser survey, 57% said they didn't have enough information to know how it would affect them. When they're asked how they feel about specific provisions, however, they're almost always thunderously in favor. 

Here are figures from Kaiser's March 2013 poll:

Tax credits for small businesses to buy insurance: 88% in favor.

Closing the Medicare drug benefit doughnut hole: 81% in favor.

Extension of dependent coverage to offspring up to age 26: 76% in favor.

Expanding Medicaid: 71% in favor.

Ban on exclusions for preexisting conditions: 66% in favor.

Employer mandate: 57% in favor. 

If you agree with those provisions, congratulations: You love Obamacare. Yet when respondents are asked how they feel about "Obamacare," they're against it.

The one provision that always polls negatively is the individual mandate. Unfortunately, the mandate is necessary if you're going to outlaw exclusions for preexisting conditions. Without it, you'd bankrupt every health insurer in the country, because people wouldn't enroll until they're sick. 

The only possible conclusion from all this is that the law's opponents have succeeded brilliantly in marketing "Obamacare" as something it's not, and its defenders have failed miserably at communicating what it is.

But that defines the history of Republican-versus-Democratic messaging over the last couple of decades. It's the same stunt that brought us "death panels," or that redefined the estate tax as the "death tax."

The key moment was the 2010 midterm election, when Democrats ran away from their healthcare achievement as if it were poison, leaving it to their GOP opponents to place their own brand on the law; they should have stood up proudly for their handiwork.

The harvest is today's government shutdown, which is predicated on the voters' supposed hatred for a law they actually support. 

 

Reach me at @hiltzikm on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or by email. MORE FROM MICHAEL HILTZIK

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