Skip to main content

Obamacare Is 'Unpopular,' But Not For the Reason You Might Think

Even as the Affordable Care Act faces a new Supreme Court challenge, the news media continues to insist that the law is "unpopular," and so do some of the law's alleged proponents.

The Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case involving the Affordable Care Act's subsidies for individual health insurance, placing the lately-much-ignored law back into the spotlight just in time for Republicans to start trying to repeal it some more. As part of this new round of coverage, you might expect to hear the useless old mainstream media talking point that Obamacare is "unpopular," buoyed by polls that ask for a simple approve/disapprove response, with no indication of why. What you might not expect is to hear that from an ally of health care reform like MSNBC's Chris Hayes. In discussing the GOP's renewed repeal push, Hayes cited one such poll, conceded that the law is "unpopular," and chalked it up to the law's relatively narrow impact:

"The law remains unpopular, even as it succeeds. A big part of this has to do with the central core fact of Obamacare, that it was designed and conceived of to disturb as little of the existing insurance market as possible. That was how they got it passed. But the flip side of that is, for now, that it's actually only helping a relatively small percentage of the population, even as the entire population has to endure an unending barrage of Republican rhetoric, demonizing the law."

The most glaring problem with all of this is the notion that the law is "unpopular," which is technically true, but meaningless. In the poll that Hayes cited, 36% of respondents approved of the law, while 56% disapproved, but as Hayes did point out, some of those people "presumably" disapproved because the law didn't go far enough. In every poll in which pollsters bothered to ask, about 60% either approved of the law or thought it needed to go further, and support for repeal is consistently around a third. But even in the exact poll Hayes was citing, respondents gave Democrats a 47%-41% edge on the issue of health care. In Tuesday's midterm exit polls, Democrats had a 59%-39% advantage over Republicans on health care.

But to the extent that Obamacare isn't more popular, or supported more energetically, it is because of this idea that the law is benefiting someone else, namely, the 15 million or so who gained coverage through the exchanges and the Medicaid expansion. Now, to his credit, Hayes had on a guest who quickly pointed out that the Affordable Care Act did, in fact, benefit almost every American, but the example he gave was copay-free preventive care. So, Obamacare saved you fifty bucks, maybe.

Part of the problem is that Obamacare has helped every American in ways that are almost too numerous to mention, and tough to choose from. Aside from the collective benefits, like healthier Americans who don't show up at the emergency room at death's door to rack up huge bills for uncompensated and futile care, there's the fact that insurance companies can't deny you coverage for a preexisting condition. When the mainstream media was busy promoting every false story of runaway Obamacare premiums they could find, why wasn't Chris Hayes interviewing a new person, every night, who had just gotten their sick kid insurance for the first time?

Under Obamacare, insurance companies can no longer look for a pretext to retroactively kick you off of your insurance when you get sick. The law also did away with annual and lifetime coverage limits, which could leave you completely uncovered after a serious illness or injury. The Affordable Care Act also set up an external appeals process, so an insurance company doesn't have the final say over whether they denied your claim unfairly. In other words, Obamacare makes insurance actually be insurance.

The Affordable Care Act also lets children stay on their parents' insurance until they're 26 years old, which is actually more of a benefit to people who aren't in the individual market. There's also the part of the law that makes it harder for insurance companies to jack up premiums, and the one that makes insurance companies send billions of dollars in refund checks to customers and employers. Rachel Maddow has done some coverage on this, because she's awesome, but I have yet to see a single person interviewed while spending their mad Obamacare rebate money.

Democrats have spent years running away from Obamacare, while the mainstream media has spent years lying about it. But the liberal media has spent those years misunderstanding it. It makes us feel good that people who didn't used to have insurance have it now, but people don't vote to make themselves feel good. Now, more than ever, they need to know that losing Obamacare will make everyone feel bad.

Really bad.