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ObamaCare Has Become the Great Unmentionable

Wall Street Journal

OCTOBER 29, 2011

Less Popular All the Time

ObamaCare has become the great unmentionable.

Good policies are sometimes unpopular, and everybody knows that bad ones are too often very popular, which helps explain the habits of modern Washington. So it’s more than a little gratifying when the political class’s worst choices earn the public scorn they deserve, as seems to be the case with President Obama’s health-care plan.

Yesterday the Kaiser Family Foundation released its October tracking poll and found that only 34% of respondents have a favorable view of the Affordable Care Act, down from 41% in September. Notably, the decline was due to losing Democratic supporters, who dropped to 52% support from 65% month to month. Meanwhile, 51% of the public is opposed to the vast new government health-care entitlement, up from a prior 2011 average of 45%.

These results show the lowest support ever in the Kaiser survey and they’re remarkable because the research outfit has long been an outlier, showing more support overall for the law, or for this or that provision, than other pollsters have been able to detect. This report is more in line with the national trend. The current Real Clear Politics average of all health polling puts opposition at 50.6% and support at 38.4%, down from a summer high of 41.5%.

Such hostility was evident when Democrats were writing the bill and ramming it through Congress almost two years ago, but the liberal political theory was that the plan would gradually gain support over time as partisan temperatures cooled. That was the historic path of all other entitlements, which built their own constituencies once the supposedly free benefits began.

In this case, the major insurance subsidies don’t start to flow until 2014. Democrats would have begun the free lunch immediately, but they needed to delay it to make their gusher of new spending look better as part of Washington’s 10-year budget scoring. However, ObamaCare was also front-loaded with all kinds of provisions that were supposed to build support in the meantime and especially leading to the 2012 election, such as small-business tax credits and temporary government coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

Many Americans also no doubt recall the partisan and abusive manner in which the law passed. Reforms of this magnitude have historically been grounded in a rough social consensus, so ObamaCare lacks a measure of democratic legitimacy. Democrats have also been running away from it, as shown by their recent demand that Members of Congress not be able to refer to “ObamaCare” in their government-paid mail to constituents. You can bet that if it were popular, they’d be embracing the term.

The durable and growing opposition is above all due to the bill’s results. The most important question Kaiser asked was whether national health care would leave Americans better or worse off. Some 44% said worse off, a 10 percentage-point jump from September, while only 18% believed they would better off.

In other words, Americans heard the President’s promises, over and over again, most of all that the bill would lower insurance costs. Those costs are rising as fast as ever, more so in some places as insurers and providers anticipate the price controls and other regulation to come.

The Beltway wisdom now is that ObamaCare will never be repealed. Entitlements are forever, they say. Maybe not this one.

Wall Street Journal