Here’s why Obamacare critics have dialed down the hate

    There has been far less Republican talk lately about the so-called Obamacare “train wreck,” and for that we can be thankful. But what accounts for this precipitous drop in noxious verbal pollution?

    And I do mean precipitous. According to the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation, Obamacare was a favorite word in congressional floor speeches as recently as last September, when it was invoked 2753 times – mostly by members of the GOP. But last month, with Congress in session for roughly the same number of days, Obamacare references had plummeted to 171.

    How come? Because the latest news about Obamacare is good. Because Republicans and their lockstep trolls get extra shrill – and the press pays extra attention – only when the news is bad.

    Granted, attacks on Obamacare will continue this year in the hot red-state Senate races. The people who sign up for Obamacare (heavily, in states like North Carolina) may not bother to vote; the conservative partisans and elderly whites who vote most heavily in midterm elections will cast their usual Republican ballots. Their hatred of Obamacare is a given; they’ll lap up the “train wreck” rhetoric even though it’s a crock. Still, in general, it’s great that fewer polluters are flapping their yaps these days; as Howard Kurtz of Fox News says, “some Republicans may have concluded it’s better for their political health to move on.”

    Here’s why:

    1. Remember all the dire GOP warnings about how Obamacare will supposedly bust the federal budget and train-wreck the economy? The latest empirical evidence says otherwise.

    According to a report posted last night, “The growth of federal spending on health care will continue to decline as a proportion of the overall economy in the coming decades, in part because of cost controls mandated by President Obama’s health care law, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday….By 2039, (projected) savings would amount to $250 billion a year” in today’s dollars.

    Naturally, you won’t see Republicans parading to the microphone to acknowledge the CBO projections; nor will they ever say anything like, “Hey, a savings of $250 billion a year would be great for America!”; not will they ever concede that their doomsday rhetoric has been a tad overheated. Fine. Their lowered volume is a sufficient blessing.

    2. Last week, the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund concluded in a new report that Obamacare is succeeding in its core mission to insure more Americans. The findings speak for themselves:

    “In the wake of the Affordable Care Act’s first open enrollment period, significantly fewer working-age adults are uninsured than just before the sign-up period began, and many have used their new coverage to obtain needed care. The uninsured rate for people ages 19 to 64 declined from 20 percent in the July-to-September 2013 period to 15 percent in the April-to-June 2014 period. An estimated 9.5 million fewer adults were uninsured.

    “Young men and women drove a large part of the decline: the uninsured rate for 19-to-34-year-olds declined from 28 percent to 18 percent, with an estimated 5.7 million fewer young adults uninsured. By June, 60 percent of adults with new coverage through the marketplaces or Medicaid reported they had visited a doctor or hospital or filled a prescription; of these, 62 percent said they could not have accessed or afforded this care previously.”

    Remember last fall, when Republicans said that few Americans would sign up? Wrong. Remember how they’ve sought to discourage young people from signing up? Didn’t work. The Commonwealth Fund’s findings jibe with an April report by the RAND Corp. (which put the newly-insured at 9.3 million), and the pollsters at Gallup say that the uninsured population is now the smallest since they started tracking it in 2008.

    Even Obamacare critic Douglas-Holtz Eakin, who works for a conservative think tank, tells Politico, “It sure looks like there are more people covered, and that’s a good thing.”

    3. Remember when Republicans predicted that most Americans who were forced to change health plans, because of Obamacare’s stricter quality standards, would wind up hating their new coverage? Wrong again.

    The Commonwealth Fund polled people about this. The results: A whopping 78 percent say they’re “very or somewhat satisfied” with their new coverage; in a separate measure, 81 percent say they’re “very or somewhat optimistic” that the new coverage will deliver the health care they need. But these are my favorite stats: 74 percent of Republicans say they’re satisfied with their new coverage, and 78 percent of Republicans are optimistic that they’ll get the care they need.

    No wonder we hear a lot less knee-jerk talk these days about “repeal.” And “death panels.” And “catastrophe.” And “rolling calamity.” And “mission impossible.” Last winter, those quotes were durable right-wing staples, but not anymore. Do the doomsayers privately admit to themselves that they were wrong? Of course not. Fox News guy Howard Kurtz rightly suggests that it’s “just Obamacare fatigue.”

    Fatigue? That would be fine by me.

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal