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How’s the general public feeling about Obamacare?

President Barack Obama

Maybe it’s because I spend so much time watching Repub presidential candidates playing the game of I’m More Against Obamacare than Thou (oh yeah, well I was against it first), but I was surprised to see this week’s Pew poll finding that, by a narrow and statistically insignificant 47-45 percent, a plurality of respondents said they approve of the mostly-still-yet-to-implemented health care bill.

This is the fourth time Pew has asked the question, and the first time the approvers outnumbered the disapprovers, but in all four polls, neither approvers nor disapprovers got above 50 percent nor below 40.

U of M political scientist Larry Jacobs has co-written a book about the law (full official name: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), so I asked him about the PPACA’s likely role in the election.

Jacobs surprised me by predicting that it won’t be that big an election issue. The argument over the economy and President Obama’s handling of it will likely dwarf most other issues, Jacobs said, invoking the classic James Carville reminder from 1992: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Mostly by spreading misinformation about what the law will actually do when fully implemented, Republicans have made it a top issue for stirring up their own base, and the Tea Party has embraced Obamacare as a symbol of big government. But Jacobs predicts that the issue will decline once the general election campaign begins, especially if Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee. (Despite the fact that the national law closely resembles the health care program that Romney signed in Massachusetts, Romney’s stump speech includes a pledge to repeal the federal version of the law.)

Jacobs said he has been impressed by the degree of outrage on the right over the bill and the apocalyptic language about the threat it represents to freedom, especially since the rhetoric is “so out of proportion to what’s actually in the law.” Between the law’s length and complexity and the number of falsehoods that have been circulated about what’s in it, most Americans have a poor grasp of how it will actually change the status quo.

What the law will do

He and his co-author, Theda Skocpol of Harvard, have worked up a summary of the Three Big Things that the law will do when it is fully implemented in 2014:

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1. Sets new rules of the game for insurance companies: Insurance companies will not be able to dump policyholders who become ill or refuse coverage to people with pre-existing health problems. They must allow parents to keep their children covered under the family plan until age 26. They will be required to spend at least four of every five premium dollars on medical care.

2. Makes health coverage more affordable: Special credits will make private health plans affordable for middle-class families (earning up to $90,000 a year) and for businesses facing high insurance costs. Medicaid will be expanded so that millions of Americans who work for modest wages will become eligible. When fully implemented, 90 percent of U.S. citizens and legal residents will have access to affordable health insurance.

3. Encourages “health exchanges” for comparison shopping: Every state is induced to set up a so-called “exchange” that enables individuals or families or businesses that provide health care to employees to easily compare the costs and benefits of the insurance policies that are available in their state. Exchanges will also let people know if they are eligible for the new credits to help pay for coverage.

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Comments (27)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 03/15/2012 - 12:02 pm.

    Time is against the anti’s; they have no alternative plan. All of the Republicans promise to repeal on their first day in office, but then what?

    The fact is that insurance is available to fewer and fewer people. The costs to those who have it rise monthly, quarterly or yearly. Health care costs remain one of the biggest factors in economic ruin.

    The costs of health-care will be borne by society through taxes or wage offsets. The question is how inefficient system of payments can we afford when the US pays twice as much per capita as the next industrialized country.

    This could have been a real competitiveness issue for Republicans–paying twice as much for worse results is inexcusable in any system.

    All of these issues are rising in the perception of the public.

    Meanwhile, the Republicans paint themselves into a smaller and smaller corner, surrounded only by the most willfully ignorant members.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/15/2012 - 06:11 pm.

      “they have no alternative plan”

      Actually, we do. It’s called freedom to choose your own insurance in an open insurance marketplace without government interference.

      • Submitted by Tom Lynch on 03/15/2012 - 11:18 pm.

        Oh Boy!

        That’s worked out so well for us. We only spend twice as much as other wealthy countries. With no better results. And we still have 50,000,000 people with no insurance coverage.

        • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/16/2012 - 08:43 am.

          So …

          you fear and resent your own freedom and would rather embrace the lowest common denominator known as collectivism. That’s the foundation of the American left.

      • Submitted by James Hamilton on 03/16/2012 - 11:06 am.

        How far are you willing to take this?

        Would you remove all government controls (regulation) of health insurers, including mandatory coverage requirements? Would you permit sale of foreign policies which do not meet state requirements by insurers which do not meet state standards for solvency? Complete laissez-faire in all markets, despite historical evidence that the absence of regulation leads to the abuse of society by virtually every industry?

        • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/16/2012 - 01:31 pm.

          For starters, how about

          letting insurance companies design and sell their products in every state (currently illegal) like the auto insurance companies do?

          My car insurance hasn’t gone up in over three years! One of the reasons is because their products are allowed to be different from their competitors in service and in price and the market (people buying auto insurance) takes care of the rest.

          If car insurance was required to be one-size-fits-all, there’d be no difference in products or in price and the price would simply rise every year without competition to keep it down. Econ 101.

  2. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 03/15/2012 - 12:22 pm.

    The Republican sky continues to fall

    Even Rush Limbaugh mentioned, in the height of his recent scandal, the republicans must keep the “fear and anger” going. Pick any of the republican pet subjects and there is nothing about facts, just perpetuating “fear and anger”. The republicans are a desperate party with nothing but “fear and anger” to offer, which is based on a stale set of failed talking points as their starting point. Why do they get away with it ? Because the electorate is stupid!!! The republicans work on the philosophy of if you say it often enough eventually it will become the truth even if it is totally false. Why, because the electorate is stupid!!! Wake up electorate we have a country that needs saving from “Fear and Anger”.

  3. Submitted by Rosalind Kohls on 03/15/2012 - 01:12 pm.

    next will be electric cars

    Obamacare is a huge government power grab. Never before has the federal government in this country commanded its citizens to buy a product and then fine them if they don’t. What happens if the citizens choose not to pay the fine? They go to jail? If the Democrats and the Obama administration get away with this, there will be nothing the federal government can be prevented from doing. We can kiss our freedom goodbye.

    • Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 03/15/2012 - 02:09 pm.

      Electric cars?


    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 03/15/2012 - 02:47 pm.

      If your neighbor gets “struck by lightning” (in one medical form or another) and does not have medical insurance, what do you propose to have happen?

      Is the first instinct you have is to check whether they have insurance?

      If they do, call the ambulance?

      Or if they don’t, do you leave them lying in the street until they die, or find until they find someone to treat them for free?

      Because the fact is that taxpayers and employee insurers pay for those who don’t have insurance. And that is the basis of the high cost, inefficient system that we have. The costs of the medical system are borne entirely by working people. All of the “back-door” ways that uninsured people get covered adds to tax rates and to insurance rates.

      Under the current system, you as a taxpayer/employee/employer are mandated to provide coverage for the uninsured, and pay twice as much as the rest of the world..

      Or would you prefer a single-payer system where every citizen is covered, paid through a system of taxes?

      No mandate to buy, it’s like every citizen having the right to a primary and secondary education. You could upgrade from there, like going to a private school.

    • Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 03/15/2012 - 05:03 pm.

      It’s not a fine

      If you buy insurance, you’ll get a tax credit. If you refuse, you don’t get the credit. You ask about going to jail like this was ever considered and wasn’t debunked many times. If you want a private system, you’ll have to accept the mandate. If the mandate is tossed out, insurers will have to take all comers even if they’re already sick. Think insurers would last? I’d be happy to see them gone actually, and replaced with a single-payer system. So I won’t cry if the mandate is thrown out by the supreme court.

    • Submitted by Pete Barrett on 03/17/2012 - 05:12 pm.

      What In The Wide World of Sports?!

      “Huge government power grab”?

      The plan leaves in place private insurers. A government take over might be expanding Medicare, making it universal coverage. Then administrative costs would drop to 3% and there would be no basis for legal challenges. But like the last Democrat in the White House Obama tried to accommodate the opposition and moved to the middle. And how many Republican votes did he get? Oh yeah, none.

      Hardly a huge government power grab by the Socialist In Chief now is it?

  4. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/15/2012 - 01:17 pm.

    This poll would have meaning

    if the people even knew what Obamacare is all about. But since it’s coming out in dribs and drabs, and glossed over by the press, the people will be like the proverbial boiled frog. Not knowing what happened to them until it’s too late. And those journalists and others who can’t figure out what all the fuss is about obviously don’t have to pay insurance premiums every month because otherwise they’d know. My premiums went up $400/month in January due to new mandated coverages.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/15/2012 - 06:33 pm.

      For which you benefit.

      Means your insurance company can’t drop you as easily if you get sick.

    • Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 03/15/2012 - 10:39 pm.


      There were no changes in care of any significance. Your premiums went up due to higher rates charged by medical groups, in part to offset the PawlentyCare Medicaid cuts. Which forces many physicians to cover Medicaid for nothing. Another Republican free market solution.

    • Submitted by Tom Lynch on 03/15/2012 - 11:29 pm.

      Due to new mandated coverages?

      I’m calling BS on that. My insurance went up $40, less than 7%, a month. My group said “Obamacare” was the reason it had gone up so little.

      My last two insurance premium increases before this were both over 25% higher a month.

    • Submitted by James Hamilton on 03/16/2012 - 11:00 am.


      Anecdotal information is questionable at best. Perhaps you can share the information on which you base your claim that your premium increased $400 per month due to new mandate coverages and the insurer involved.

  5. Submitted by Jerilyn Jackson on 03/15/2012 - 02:04 pm.

    Health care insurance premiums have been shooting up every year for years, and will only continue to get worse until something is done to contain health care costs. How silly to blame it on the Affordable Care Act. If it takes the federal government to make sure all of our citizens have the protection of health care insurance (what more basic human right is there?) then so be it. The insurance companies certainly aren’t going to offer protection out of the goodness of their hearts.The emergency room does not equal ongoing quality care for sick people. Some peoples’ “freedoms” are tens of thousands of people’s risk of an early death.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/15/2012 - 06:17 pm.

      Ever hear of Medicaid?

      If people are too poor to buy their own health insurance, let the government help them. That’s no reason or excuse to have the government control EVERYBODY’S health insurance. That’s socialism and that’s not the role of government in a free society. Not that liberals ever wanted to be free, but most people do.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/15/2012 - 06:34 pm.

      The facts are clear–

      Countries with national health care systems receive better health care for less money.
      Even Cubans live longer than we do!

  6. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/15/2012 - 06:10 pm.

    “How silly to blame it on the Affordable Care Act?”

    When the government mandates that all policies include superfluous things do you think the cost of such policies will go up or go down?

    [que theme from Jeopardy]

    • Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 03/15/2012 - 10:49 pm.

      Wrong again

      Depends on your idea of superfluous, women’s healthcare for he poor saves money, study after study proves it.

      • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/16/2012 - 09:29 am.

        Well study after study

        would show that regular oil changes and tune-ups would make your car last longer. So why don’t auto insurance companies include those items in their policies? Because no one would be able to afford them!

        People can buy their own condoms. Why include it in an insurance policy?

  7. Submitted by r batnes on 03/15/2012 - 07:42 pm.

    I think Mr. Black

    hit it squarely out of the park with his assertion that Romney is being forced to disavow his greatest accomplishment. It’s a program that has worked extremely well and it’s gong to be interesting to see his attempts to deflect when he has to debate the President (if he becomes the GOP nominee) and answer why he isn’t running on a successful program.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/16/2012 - 08:41 am.

      Some can differentiate

      between government-controlled, mandated health insurance for all, and government subsidizing those who need help, but *only* those who need help.

      Unfortunately, they don’t represent the majority of American voters. I get Romney’s point that his plan only affected the 8% of state residents who needed health insurance while Obamacare mandates government-devised health insurance for all regardless of need. But virtually all people who vote democrat and most people who vote independent aren’t smart enough to see the difference.

  8. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 03/15/2012 - 09:40 pm.

    “47-45 percent, a plurality of respondents said they approve”

    We want the benefits, but we don’t want to pay the costs.

    I guess that’s a “core value” of our culture.

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