How do you take one of the most despised public policy failures in decades and turn it into a possible political winner for the other side? Ask the Republicans, because it seems their inability to repeal and replace Obamacare has done just that.
According to a survey from the Wesleyan Media Project, which is connected to Wesleyan University in Connecticut, political advertising in the two weeks after Labor Day was up 33 percent over the same dates in 2014. “This increase is primarily driven by large increases in television advertising volume in federal races, which is up by 55 percent over the 2014 midterm election.”
So what are Democrats focusing on in their ads? Wesleyan says 44 percent of House Democratic ads are on health care. Medicare comes in second at 18 percent—though arguably the two should be combined for 62 percent.
For Senate Democrats, 50 percent of the ads are on health care.
For House Republicans, the primary focus is tax reform, 49 percent, with 34 percent hitting health care. For Senate Republicans, the major issues are pretty equally divided in the mid-20-percent range.
However, Democrats aren’t running on all of Obamacare, mainly just the provision that requires health insurers accept anyone who applies for coverage regardless of a preexisting medical condition.
Ironically, that change affected a very small number of people.
Under federal law both before and after the passage of Obamacare, Medicare and Medicaid accepted anyone who qualified for coverage, regardless of a preexisting condition, as does the military. That’s about 122 million Americans.
About 155 million Americans and their dependents have employer-provided coverage. Employers who provide coverage are required to cover any new employee who wants it, though they might impose a short waiting period.
That leaves the individual health insurance market, where individuals buy their own coverage.
Most states allowed insurers to deny applicants in the individual market, yet some 16 million Americans had coverage pre-Obamacare—about the same number who buy individual coverage today under Obamacare.
And most states had a safety-net option for uninsured individuals with a preexisting condition—though some state safety nets didn’t work well.
In short, the preexisting condition issue was a problem for a relatively small number of Americans and could easily have been fixed—if Democrats had only wanted to solve the problem rather than move us closer to government-run health care.
But many voters fear a preexisting condition could affect them at some point, and so the issue resonates politically.
Republicans fumbled the ball when they tried to repeal and replace Obamacare, and they still haven’t coalesced around a substitute—though there are efforts afoot.
Now Democrats hope to score with that preexisting-condition fear and ignore the rest of Obamacare’s failures, and use that issue as a stepping stool to political victory and implementing their real goal: Putting the government in charge of the health care system.