Avoiding what is supposed to be the centerpiece domestic accomplishment of President Obama’s first term stuck out like a sore thumb.
He said almost nothing because the Obama team simply doesn’t know what to say.
The fact is the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is generally unpopular, and its best-known provision, the individual mandate, is wildly unpopular.
Two years after passage and, the implementation of the law’s first steps all designed to build support, the public’s opinion of the law is unchanged and not good. The just out January 2012 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll leaves no doubt:
- Only 37% of those surveyed have a favorable view of the law.
- 44% have an unfavorable view of the Affordable Care Act.
- But even some of those who don’t like it don’t like it because it didn’t go far enough—31% of all of those surveyed want to expand the current law while 19% want to keep it in its current form. That’s a total of 50% that want to keep or expand it.
- 22% want it repealed outright and another 18% want it replaced with a Republican alternative—a total of 40%, fewer than want to expand it or keep it as it is.
- On the individual mandate, 67% have an unfavorable view of requiring everyone to buy coverage, while 30% have a favorable view of the requirement.
- While a total of 50% of those surveyed think the law should be kept or expanded, 54% say the Supreme Court should throw the mandate out, while only 17% say they think the mandate should be upheld.
So, let’s summarize. Only 37% have a favorable view of the law and 67% don’t like the mandate. But 50% think the law should be kept as it is or even expanded. No wonder Obama and his political team can’t figure out how to play this.
Perhaps even more intriguing is the dilemma the eventual Republican presidential nominee is about to find himself in—everyone of the candidates is telling voters lots of times a day that the first thing they will do as President is to get rid of “Obamacare.”
For Republican presidential candidates that is a safe thing to say among Republicans—73% of Republicans have an unfavorable view of the ACA, while 62% of Democrats view it favorably.
But come the fall, when the eventual winner will need lots of independent voters, the Republican nominee will have to face the reality that only 40% of the overall electorate wants the ACA repealed or replaced.
Then Obama’s dilemma will have to become the Republican’s dilemma.
I guess the voters are telling us that to get a majority of support, the ACA needs to be repealed, expanded, and replaced—so long as it doesn’t have a mandate.