Running on Health Care

A significant part of the Affordable Care Act’s unpopularity had less to do with the law itself, and everything to do with its contested status. With Democrats unhappy and Republicans furious, voters saw the law as something controversial and potentially terrible. As such, the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the law was an important signal to low-information voters; it communicated a certain amount of legitimacy, which—as we saw at the beginning of this week—translated to increased support for the bill. According to a poll from CNN, for example, support for Obamacare increased to 50 percent after the Court’s ruling. Likewise, a Reuters/Ipsos poll saw support increase to 48 percent of the public, up from 43 percent.

I argued last week that this is an opportunity for the administration to resell the bill as something that will help the average American, and it seems that they’ve taken my advice [1]:

Before a cheering crowd of several hundred at a rally in northwestern Ohio, Obama declared that the healthcare law was alive and well and highlighted elements that have proved popular with the public — even as the overall law has not. […]

“We will not go back to the days when insurance companies could discriminate against people just because they were sick,” he said. "We’re not going to tell 6 million young people who are now on their parents’ health insurance plans that suddenly they don’t have health insurance. We’re not going to allow Medicare to be turned into a voucher system.

“Nobody should go bankrupt because they get sick. I’ll work with anybody who wants to work with me to continue to improve our healthcare system and our healthcare laws. But the law I passed is here to stay.”

Now that the Affordable Care Act is part of the status quo, Obama should focus on presenting its provisions as something people will lose if they elect Mitt Romney. The public is eager to hold onto benefits, and will support politicians who promise to protect them. Obama is well-positioned to use that dynamic for political gain. Emphasizing the extent to which Obamacare will provide insurance—or protect it—is a winning strategy.

  1. Not really.  ↩