Even before the Affordable Care Act became law, public opinion over the proposed reform was caught in a paradox. We learned from numerous polls, including this one from the Kaiser Family Foundation, that people were adamant about disliking “Obamacare” while simultaneously liking all (or at least most) of its components. Then late night host Jimmy Kimmel aired a segment that asked people whether they preferred the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. Obviously, it was a trick question, but you get the sense from watching the clip that people are reacting from partisan positions and have little understanding of the law itself. The lesson for politicians? That kind of messaging, no matter how patently false it may be, is incredibly effective.
Fast forward to today. The ACA is now law, and with only a few exceptions, the law itself has been fully implemented. That is, there are now expanded Medicaid programs in roughly half of the states, and federally subsidized health insurance exchanges are operational nationwide. What remains unclear is whether the public’s perception of the law has changed at all now that most of the key provisions are in place. On the one hand, we’ve heard from the disgruntled groups who lost their coverage despite the President’s claim that they could keep it. On the other hand, we’ve seen some 8 million people sign up for health insurance under the law in year 1 of the exchanges.
And then there are the politicians. We’re in a midterm election year, and we’re getting our first glimpse of how the politics of the ACA will play out now that the reform is much better established. Will people’s receipt of benefits under the law make this a less politicized voting issue? Not if politicians can keep people confused on the issue. It’s the same old story: People dislike Obamacare, but they like what Obamacare does. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes is one of numerous people reporting on how this issue is playing out in a key senate race in Kentucky, where the state marketplace “Kynect” is very popular, while Obamacare is very unpopular. How is that disconnect on the part of the public being handled? You can watch this video segment and see for yourself.