By Jacob Winkelman
On March 31st the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, surprisingly exceeded 7 million sign-ups by its April 1st deadline. 7 million was the initial projection by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in October when the website launched but was seen as nearly impossible after the website’s disastrous first two months. In fact, the CBO modified their estimation to 6 million sign-ups in February, but some pundits considered even this a lofty goal. The Health Care Exchange websites had been riddled with tech issues resulting in disastrous sign-up rates in October and November. As 2014 began, the Obama administration and other health care advocacy groups amped up their advertisement efforts as enrollment numbers started to climb in January and February. With state exchanges already doing well, and the federal government putting its tech issues in the past, Obamacare hit the 6 million mark in late March. Finally, in the last 4 days nearly 1 million Americans completed the sign-up process pushing the final tally above the 7 million mark. The past 6 months have been almost nothing but troubling polls and publicity for Democrats and the Affordable Care Act, but this 7 million milestone should give the Obama Administration a reason to celebrate.
For years now the Republican Party has been running on complete repeal of Obamacare with ominous predictions about what would happen if the ACA was implemented. With the abysmal rollout of the healthcare exchanges in late 2013 many conservative lawmakers doubled down on their rhetoric and reaffirmed their position that the law would fail. But with 7 million people enrolled on state and federal exchanges and a total of 13 million people who now have access to healthcare as a result of Medicaid expansion and coverage under their parents’ plans, Republican politicians are having a difficult time facing the realities of functioning Obamacare. A recent Washington Post Poll found that for the first time more Americans were satisfied with the Affordable Care Act then dissatisfied (49-48%). Although close, it’s important to remember that some of the people unsatisfied with the law do not think it went far enough, as opposed to agreeing with the Republican Party about complete repeal.
At this point the Republican Party is left with a difficult choice: either continue to fight tooth and nail to repeal Obamacare and take away healthcare from millions of Americans or agree to keep the law and anger a significant portion of their base. The choice won’t even be close, and until November America can expect a continuation of the GOP’s commercials and press releases that for the last four years have described everything from death panels and the downfall of America, to the ruin of our health care system and a complete collapse of the Affordable Care Act. For the Republican Party it is irrelevant that every Obamacare horror story has been debunked and that millions of Americans now have access to quality insurance that was impossible beforehand. They have been running on repeal for the past 4 years, and their base of mostly elderly, Evangelical White people will desert them if the GOP does anything but continue.
Despite this 7 million milestone and the gradual uptick in Obamacare’s popularity, the Republican Party could still trounce the Democrats in November. Midterm elections are almost always favorable to the party not in the White House, and the Democratic Party is notoriously terrible at voter turnout in midterm elections. Additionally President Obama’s poll numbers are still suffering from the botched roll out of the Affordable Care Act and many still view the health care law unfavorably. However, as millions of Americans start to receive affordable health care for the first time in their lives, don’t be surprised if polls start leaning back in favor of the Democrats. Due to gerrymandering and voter suppression efforts the Republicans are almost certain to maintain control of the House but picking up 6 seats in the Senate will not be an easy task. November is still a long way off and a lot can change in 8 months, but for now Americans everywhere can celebrate that for the first time millions of people have affordable, quality health insurance.
This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.