Are the Obamacare Clouds Breaking?
This morning, I was listening to NPR—because yeah, I'm an effete pointy-headed liberal and that's how I roll—and I heard a story about people in California who got insurance cancellation notices, but then wound up getting better coverage and couldn't be happier about it. And the other day there was this story in The Washington Post about droves of poor people in rural Kentucky getting insurance for the first time in their lives—free, through Medicaid—because of the Affordable Care Act. In other words, after spending weeks telling the tales of people losing their health coverage (who in truth could get other health coverage), the media are finally putting at least some attention on the people who are benefiting from the ACA.
And encouraging news seems to be breaking out all over. Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas ask, "Is Obamacare Turning the Corner?", noting that Healthcare.gov seems to be working pretty well, at least on the front end. States with well-functioning web sites like New York and California are meeting or exceeding their enrollment targets. Steve Benen concurs on the corner-turning interpretation. Kevin Drum argues that "Getting Obamacare to the end zone wasn't easy, and Obama almost fumbled the ball at the one-yard line, but he's finally won. There's nothing left for conservatives to do. Love it or hate it, Obamacare is here to stay."
That isn't to say that there aren't lots of problems left to be sorted out. Nor is it to say that the media are done with Obamacare "horror" stories. For instance, last night, NBC News aired this story about employers moving to more modest plans to avoid the "Cadillac tax" on high-cost health plans, complete with disgruntled employees. The piece didn't bother to explore why an employer might choose a plan for 2014 based on a tax that doesn't take effect until 2018, other than including a quote from a health-industry consultant claiming that employers "are going to have to get ready for it now," which makes no sense at all. Think there might be a story there about companies making a decision to scale back benefits and save money but just blaming it on Obamacare? Maybe?
Anyhow, it does appear that we're starting to edge toward a more balanced media discussion of the successes and failures of this law. I'll stick to the prediction I've made for some time, that the law will be fine. When that December 1 deadline for fixing the website comes, reporters will find that it's not perfect, but it's pretty good. In the medium term, the law will do a lot of good for a lot of people, but it won't transform America into a health care paradise, nor will it drag us into a nightmare of communist oppression. It will have problems, most of which will get sorted out. And the political impact? That will probably be something of a wash as well. Republicans will still be able to go to their conservative constituents and say, "I fought against Obamacare!" as proof of their right-wing bona fides. Democrats will still be able to go to their constituents and say they made it so nobody would get rejected for insurance because of a pre-existing condition. Eventually, Republicans will find something else to shout about.
And who knows, maybe these kinds of problems getting fixed will create a new narrative of success around the ACA: Despite terrible obstacles and mistakes, the administration found its way and delivered for the American people, redeeming liberalism in the process! Weirder things have happened.
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