Opinion: A Healthy Dislike for Obamacare
Obamacare's supporters maintain that the law is slowly but surely growing in popularity. "The more people understand this bill, the more they are going to like it," Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius recently said.
Unfortunately, public opinion data tell a different story. The most recent survey from independent pollster Rasmussen Reports finds that 55 percent of likely voters favor repealing the health reform law. That figure hasn't budged more than six percentage points in either direction since Obamacare became law in March.
Any way you slice it, that's a majority in favor of repeal. The simple truth is that the public doesn't like Obamacare -- and no amount of Democratic messaging is going to change their minds.
Rasmussen isn't the only pollster portending bad news for Obamacare. According to Pollster.com, which tracks and aggregates a wide array of polls, opposition to the law has held steady since May, with an average of just under half the public consistently against it.
Why is the public so down on Obamacare? Its Democratic backers cite a failure of messaging. Secretary Sebelius has scoffed at the dwindling poll numbers by saying that the public has been confused by "misinformation." The administration, she said, has "a lot of reeducation to do."
The president's team might want to start by "reeducating" Democrats like Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who recently told a group of constituents that they shouldn't want him to "waste [his] time" reading the healthcare bill. "We hire experts" for that, he said.
Such remarks betray how the president plans to deal with its public opinion problem: opposition to the law is unacceptable -- and will be fought at any cost.
That's why the Obama Administration and its allies have decided to launch a multimillion-dollar ad campaign to sell the public on the reform effort. They're also working with ostensibly nonpartisan foundations and philanthropists to "educate" the public about the law's purported benefits.
But blitzing the airwaves with propaganda won't change the substance of the law. Obamacare remains a bloated, bureaucratic mess - and Americans have known it all along.
Some 54 percent believe that the cost of health care will increase under the new law. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office agrees with them. Officials there found Obamacare would increase individual insurance premiums by 10 to 13 percent. For some people - particularly the young and healthy - insurance premiums could triple.
For many people, health costs have already increased. A survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation recently found that workers are paying 13.7 percent more for their coverage - or $482 more, on average. At the same time, employers are contributing 0.9 percent less toward the cost of their employees' policies.
Just 14 percent of voters believe that the new law will reduce the deficit. Among the skeptics is Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former CBO director. He's calculated that the law will increase the deficit by $500 billion over its first ten years -- and by $1.5 trillion over its second 10.
With figures like these out there, it's no wonder that several prominent supporters of Obamacare, including several labor unions and AARP, recently instructed their members to stop saying that the law would reduce health costs and the deficit and to focus on improving it. Never mind that the president explicitly sold his bill as a deficit-reduction tool which would lower the average family's healthcare costs by $2,500.
Obamacare's consistently miserable public standing has dealt a severe blow to Democrats' hopes of retaining Congress this fall. The more Americans learn about the law, the more they dislike it. And no amount of "reeducation" will change that.
Sally C. Pipes is President and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book, The Truth About Obamacare (Regnery 2010), was just released.