Obamacare Is Here to Stay

Mark Barabak of the LA Times reports today that Democrats have finally decided to stop running away from Obamacare:

For years Democrats ran from the healthcare issue as though it were a heap of flaming rubble….But polls show support for the law increasing as it becomes more imperiled, and the result has been a political sea change.

….Democrats have gotten the message, campaigning on healthcare not just in blue states like California, or swing states like Nevada and Florida, but red states like Kentucky, home of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell….Democrats “don’t have to defend how the ACA works” as they did when President Obama was in the White House, said Robert Blendon, a Harvard expert on healthcare politics. “They just have to say, ‘The other party wants to take coverage away from millions of people,’” he said.

In a sense, this is what everyone—both liberal and conservative—predicted from the start: it’s hard to put a big new social program in place, but once people get used to it it’s nearly impossible to take away. Republicans understood this well, which is why they fought like demons to get rid of it as soon as they possibly could. Now it’s too late:

In 2015, with Obamacare favorability languishing around 35-40 percent, repealing it wouldn’t have been too hard if President Obama himself hadn’t stood in the way. Today, Obama is gone but ACA’s favorability is 50-55 percent and rising. Even the rich favor keeping it around. There’s just not much appetite for destroying Obamacare anymore except among the tea party-ish base of the Republican Party.

I don’t know how far Donald Trump can go toward sabotaging Obamacare out of existence. Polls mean nothing to him in the face of getting revenge of Obama, and there’s obviously a lot of damage he can do. But can he do enough damage to wreck it for good before Democrats take over Congress or toss him out of the White House? It looks unlikely to me, and even red states seem to agree. After the failure of last year’s repeal effort, they’re finally giving in and accepting Medicaid expansion. After all, why not take the free money now that holding out doesn’t seem to have much point to it?

The fight over Obamacare isn’t over. But I suspect it’s now faced its final hurdle and is basically a permanent part of the American landscape.

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