The GOP has spent the better part of a year trying to strip health insurance from millions of people, but Tuesday's election and 2018 early Affordable Care Act enrollment numbers may indicate a different path would be more politically advantageous.
In looking at Tuesday night’s election results across the country, Republicans in Washington might want to rethink their efforts to sabotage or repeal the Affordable Care Act.
The GOP has maintained for years that its number one mission is repealing the health care legislation enacted under President Barack Obama, but even with control of the U.S. Senate, U.S. House and the Oval Office, the party has wasted the better part of a year and still can’t agree on anything.
President Donald Trump has simultaneously promised health care for everyone at a cheaper price and has praised congressional GOP efforts to strip coverage from millions of Americans. He applauded the House-passed version of a bill that would have left up to 20 million more people without coverage, and then later called the bill “mean” and said he hoped the Senate could come up with something better.
They couldn’t, of course, and after a few Republicans defected from the effort the Senate bill was dropped.
Undaunted, Trump decided to stop subsidies that help people afford insurance, and his administration shortened the enrollment period and stripped away funding for advertising and for helping people to sign up this year, all in an attempt to get fewer people enrolled.
But if Tuesday’s elections -- and early enrollment figures for 2018 coverage -- are any indication, people want more and better health coverage.
In Virginia, where Democrats retained the governorship in what was thought would be a much closer race than it turned out, the number one issue for people interviewed in exit polls was health care. Republicans might think that their own inability to repeal Obamacare led to the thumping they received from voters, but results from elsewhere in the nation would suggest otherwise.
In Maine, after the Republican governor refused to expand Medicaid numerous times, the question was put to voters. On Tuesday, Maine residents by about a 60/40 margin voted for expanding Medicaid under Obamacare. Apparently, residents there think that access to health care for about 80,000 more people in the state would be a good thing.
Another indicator that people aren’t as enthusiastic about losing their health care coverage as some Washington Republicans think: Enrollment for 2018 opened Nov. 1 and officials say that, despite no money for advertising and cutting the number of people to help get Americans enrolled, the numbers are up considerably from a year ago. The higher early enrollment numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt because the Trump administration shortened the enrollment period, meaning a lot of people who might have waited until the last minute might be enrolling now to ensure their coverage continues. Still, the fact that interest is so high seems to be an indication that people want health care coverage and, even though the Affordable Care Act is not perfect, it at least provides the opportunity for more people to get it.
So voters say health care is one of their top issues, enrollment in Obamacare is up, Maine voters used a ballot measure to get around their governor’s opposition and, looking back, poll after poll showed extremely low public opinion for both the House and Senate Republican versions of repeal. The overall message seems to indicate greater support for Obamacare than Republicans would like to admit.
Democrats and Republicans will be pulling apart Tuesday’s election results in search of winning strategies going into next year’s midterm election. If Republicans want to regain an edge, they might want to consider looking at ways to improve health care coverage for more Americans and work with Democrats to make the Affordable Care Act better.
Ultimately, it will come down to them either saying “we tried to take away your health care coverage and we have sabotaged the Affordable Care Act” or saying “we are working with Democrats to improve and fix their legislation to ensure you have the coverage you need at a price you can afford.”
As political strategies go, working to help Americans get coverage, and taking credit for fixing Obamacare shortfalls, would seem the better path. But we’ll have to wait and see what Republicans decide to do.
Jim Lee is Editor for Gatehouse Media Delaware. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.