ACA Ambivalence

Jonathan Bernstein is ignoring the polling numbers on Obamacare until it takes effect because he doubts Americans “have strong views of a law that they know little about and that has all sorts of components”:

Look, the Affordable Care Act is unpopular! After all, a new CNN poll finds 43 percent of respondents support Obamacare, while 54 percent oppose it. Look, the Affordable Care Act is popular after all! Or at least government intervention to achieve universal health insurance is popular. Yes, 54 percent oppose the ACA, but almost half of those think it’s not liberal enough. Wait — those can’t both be right, can they? The answer is more basic: Neither of them are. Conservatives convinced by this poll’s headline number that everyone hates Obamacare are wrong; so are liberals convinced that everyone really loves it are wrong, too. …

In the long run, what will really matter is whether the various programs included in the ACA actually work. If they do, they’ll be impossible to repeal (although fights over, for example, subsidy levels will become standard political fights). If implementation goes badly — if the exchanges are impossible to navigate, or large employers really do suddenly stop offering health insurance as a benefit — then new changes won’t take long.

Steve Benen, however, predicts divergent views to remain beyond implementation:

Now, because of state-by-state differences, there will be quite a bit of variety in outcomes. If you live in California or another state dominated by Democratic officials, you’ll likely have a very positive impression of how the law is being implemented, and how it benefits you, your family, and your community. If you live in, say, Texas, you’re likely to have a very different kind of experience. …

It’s not necessarily an explicitly partisan matter — I’m not saying that Democrats are necessarily better at health care governance. Rather, the point is, Democrats don’t have an ideological axe to grind when it comes to trying to sabotage federal health care law. Rick Perry, however, does. To be sure, these red-state residents won’t be left out entirely, and they’ll still benefit from all kinds of consumer protections and expanded access that they’ll really appreciate, even if they don’t yet realize the available benefits. But the full benefits of implementation will elude them for a while in ways blue-state residents won’t have to deal with.