How’s Can Democrats Run on Obamacare?
By Grace-Marie Turner
March 17, 2014 6:31 PM
Democratic strategist Bob Shrum has some questionable advice for his party’s candidates facing the hurricane-force headwinds of Obamacare in the November elections: In his Daily Beast column, he tells candidates to “emphasize the popular provisions” and to “pound away at a Republican candidate” on specifics.
He says it would be wrong for Democrats to double down on the progressive dream of a single-payer system, wrong for them to run against the health overhaul law, and wrong to promise to mend it, as failed candidate Alex Sink did — weakly — in the Florida 13 special election. “Sink didn’t lose because of Obamacare,” he argues, but because of a demographic disadvantage and low turnout.
“Democrats have to stop allowing Republicans to define the election as an up or down vote on an abstraction called Obamacare,” Shrum writes.
An abstraction?! What is abstract about 2,800 pages of legislation and at least 25,000 pages of regulations? What’s abstract about nearly 6 million people losing the health coverage they liked and being forced into the Obamacare exchanges where health insurance is more expensive, deductibles are sky-high, and networks are limited to a short list of doctors and hospitals? And what is abstract about citizens paying potentially thousands of dollars in fines for not complying with the law’s individual mandate?
So here is Shrum’s concrete advice to his candidates:
“Pound away at a Republican candidate for proposing, and a Republican House incumbent for voting 51 times, to permit insurance companies to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions.”
Wrong. The Republican House has voted to repeal Obamacare in each Congress, but the rest of the votes have been on specific provisions, including giving legal authority to the president to do what he is doing illegally through regulation (such as allowing people to keep their plans, delaying the employer mandate, etc.)
In fact, 15 changes to Obamacare have passed both houses of Congress and have been signed into law by President Obama, including 10 of the 51 passed by the Republican-led House. Here is the full list.
“Assail Republicans for opposing a ban on lifetime limits, so policies can’t be canceled when patients are sickest and need them most.”
This won’t work, either. Replace bills proposed by Republicans in both the House and the Senate would also lift lifetime limits on plans.
“And go after Republicans for favoring or voting for a bill to deprive children up to the age of 26 of the chance to stay on their parents’ health insurance policy.”
Ditto. Republicans would give people that option in their legislation.
Then Shrum says, “Obamacare’s numbers are getting better and better — in both public opinion and enrollments.” That is a stretch, to put it mildly.
Public opinion: According to a recent CNN poll: “39% of Americans say they support the health care law, up from 35% in December, a record low in CNN polling. The uptick of four percentage points is within the survey’s sampling error. Fifty-seven percent of those questioned say they oppose the measure, down five points from December.”
And this is good news? Obamacare is underwater with the American people by 18 percentage points! But, hey, it was worse!
Enrollment: The White House says that 4.2 million people have signed up for coverage on either the federal or state exchanges. But officials refuse to say how many of them have actually paid and are therefore enrolled. And it appears that only 1 million of those who have “signed up” were previously uninsured. This does not even begin to make a serious dent in the nearly 50 million people who the president promised to help and for whom we are throwing our health sector into turmoil.
Instead of repeating this nonsense, Democrats will have to answer the factual challenges that will be leveled against candidates who either voted for or support the law. One example: A new TV ad by Crossroads GPS running in New Hampshire against Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D.) who is being challenged by former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown. She voted for the law. People in New Hampshire have lost their health insurance as a result. She promised them they would be able to keep their plans.
Answering these concrete facts is going to be much taller order for Democrats.