Sunday, April 20, 2014

ObamaCare Perceptions  and Misconceptions**

One man’s perceptions is another man's misconceptions.


As the battle for the Senate heats up,  it is apparent Democrats and Republicans see the health law differently.

As Jonathan Martin explained in today’s New York Times,  ObamaCare poses “vexing’ political problems for Democrats : “Democrats Confront Vexing Politics Over Health Care Law.”

The first problem is that ObamaCare was sold as minor change to help the uninsured with the promise it would not affect anybody else, that  there would be no losers., and that everybody could keep their doctor and their health plan and that costs would go down .   But costs have gone up,  nearly 10 million of the insured have  temporarily lost their plans, and  premiums and deductibles  for existing and replacement plans have gone up.

A second problem is one of miscommunication or message failure.  The American  public is not buying  ObamaCare's  premises and promises.  Every  consecutive national poll since its passage 4 years ago,  has been negative, by average margins of  12% to 15%, a  huge gap by polling standards.

The third  problem is that Medicare and Social Security had broad bipartisan support, while ObamaCare passed only after clandestine parliamentary  maneuvering  without a single Republican support, evoking lasting anger, accusations of  political arrogance, and an  energized  base of Republican voters.

The  fourth  problem is  that  those most helped by the law – young people, minorities, and the uninsured   - may not have turned out in significant enough  numbers in the first six month  enrollment period to lower premiums for the rest of the population (the  true numbers aren’t known yet  but are believed to be in the 25% to 30% range rather the desired 40% needed to head off a death spiral causing spikes in spikes in premiums and deductibles)     Furthermore,  those most helped historically don’t turn out to vote in midterm elections,  in the same numbers as conservative older and white citizens.   

A fifth problem is that the law is so complicated, so structured for the long term, and  its website enrollment  machinery  so  difficult to use, that is confuses voters.,   although 8 million  (2.5% of the population) did enroll and 3 million  joined the Medicaid rolls. 

A sixth problem is that Republicans have shown a talent  “exploit the unknown,  to exploit the fear of people losing something that they have.  That wasn’t true of Social Security and Medicare.”   Those two programs are regarded as net social gains because they are automatic and understood,  not so with ObamaCare. There are hundreds of anecdotal horror stories out there about dropped coverage,  just waiting to be exploited and featured in negative ads.

A seventh  problem is that with Medicare and Social Security people pay something into the system.   This  is  deemed to be fair for everyone  and sits  better with the American culture of self-reliance than massively and blindly  subsidizing the disenfranchised in welfare programs at taxpayer expense.

An eighth problem is that Obamacare is widely perceived  as  a “ social  welfare program” rather than a “social insurance program”,  as  an income transfer,  as redistribution of wealth,  as a means of achieving equality of outcome  rather than incentivizing equality of opportunity.

A ninth  problem is that Americans have lost their faith in government, as evidenced by only 2% of those surveyed in a recent Quinnipiac polls said they trusted government to do right thing almost all of the time.

A tenth problem is that  vulnerable Democrats in red and purple states  have spoken  publicly  against the law and by their actions have shown that embracing the law offers more risks than rewards.

Tweet:   For Democrats,  supporting ObamaCare carries political risks because of negative public perceptions and misconceptions about its value.

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