Health Care Reform Turns One

BY David Chalian  March 23, 2011 at 8:51 AM EST

President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on March 23, 2010. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

A lot has happened in the year since President Obama signed health reform into law.

Republicans won big in last November’s midterm elections, running in part on a pledge to repeal the measure. And when the new Congress convened in January, House Republicans followed through on their promise, but the effort soon ran out of steam in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

There have also been dozens of legal challenges across the country, with all signs pointing toward the Supreme Court deciding sometime next year whether the law’s mandate requiring most people to buy insurance by 2014 is constitutional.

The Obama administration and congressional Democrats have been pushing back on the attacks every step of the way, touting the benefits of the law, such as allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26, preventing children with pre-existing conditions from being denied coverage and providing seniors with $250 rebate checks to help offset the cost of their prescription drugs.

Despite all the campaign rhetoric, legislative battles and legal action, public opinion seems to be right where it was when the president put ink to paper and Vice President Joe Biden proclaimed the occasion to be “a big [bleeping] deal.”


A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Wednesday found that 37 percent of Americans support the law, with 59 percent opposed — almost unchanged from a survey taken last March. It’s worth noting that a good chunk of the opposition — 13 percent — came from those who felt the law did not go far enough.

Other polls show similar divisions among Americans. A Gallup survey released Monday found that 46 percent of Americans see the law as a good thing, compared with 44 percent who called it a bad thing.

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll published last week found that 42 percent of those surveyed held a favorable view of the law, while 46 percent viewed it unfavorably.

With a majority of Americans still trying to determine how the 2,000-plus page law will affect them (52 percent according to the Kaiser survey), Democrats and Republicans are doing their part to shape how the public sees the measure.

The administration has dispatched dozens of officials to commemoration events in more than 20 states, and pro-reform advocacy groups like Health Care for America Now have organized gatherings across the country this week to celebrate the occasion.

Congressional Democrats are also doing their part to play up the law’s pluses. Democratic National Committee Vice Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., is holding a conference call Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET with “Americans benefiting from the Affordable Care Act” to mark the one year anniversary of the law.

Republicans, meanwhile, are in no mood to celebrate.

In a Wednesday op-ed in the Cincinnati Enquirer, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., push back on some of the administration’s claims that the law would lower costs and allow people to keep their plan if they liked it.

“Taken together, these broken promises illustrate why so many Americans continue to support a full repeal – which the new Republican-led House has passed – followed by common-sense reforms that will actually lower costs, improve care, and protect jobs,” write the Republican leaders. “The fog of controversy has now cleared, but contrary to the confident predictions of some, the contents of this law are even worse than anyone expected. And that’s saying something.”

The National Republican Campaign Committee has also been firing off statements to the press all week targeting House Democrats who voted for the measure. One release went to nearly 50 Democratic lawmakers.

“Nick Rahall’s constituents in West Virginia shouldn’t forget how he marched right alongside the Democrat spending spree that preceded the record deficit we now face, and his vote for ObamaCare exactly one year ago today is a shining example,” said NRCC Communications Director Paul Lindsay.

Health care reform produced heated debate that lasted well over a year. In the year since enactment of the law, that passion has cooled slightly as issues foreign (Libya, Japan, etc.) and domestic (the economy, the Gulf oil spill, etc.) have garnered more attention.

But it’s a good bet that health care will find itself a major part of the coming year as the country readies for a presidential election and the resolution of the law’s legal challenges.

OHIO NUMBERS

You shouldn’t underestimate how closely new poll numbers on Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s performance will be scrutinized by the folks planning President Obama’s re-election campaign. And there’s little doubt they’ll like what they see.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday, the Republican governor’s approval rating is upside down at this early stage of his tenure. Forty-six percent of Ohio voters disapprove of how he’s handling his job, compared to 30 percent who approve.

Most interestingly, Gov. Kasich’s endorsed bill to restrict collective bargaining by public employees in the Buckeye State is not selling well. Unlike in Wisconsin, Republicans control a large enough share of the statehouse that there would be no reason for Democratic legislators to flee the state, which has garnered the battle over SB 6 far less attention than in Wisconsin or Indiana.

Wording is always a little dicey on this question, but when asked if they support or oppose a bill that limits collective bargaining by public employees, 48 percent of Ohioans oppose the bill, versus 41 percent who support it. The numbers break further away from Kasich’s position when the term “collective bargaining rights” is used in the question.

The less-than-stellar poll numbers for Gov. Kasich come just one week after he introduced a two-year budget that proposes cuts to nearly every state agency in these difficult fiscal times.

With Ohio promising to be a critical presidential battleground yet again, these numbers will provide some sense of opportunity to the Obama team just a few months after Democrats were trounced at the polls in the state. In addition to losing the governorship, Democrats lost five House seats.

If voters are already bucking at some of the ways Gov. Kasich is proposing to get the state’s fiscal house in order, it could give Democrats and President Obama an opening to get their argument heard — an opening that didn’t seem to exist anywhere for the president’s party in 2010.

TRUMP TO IOWA

Billionaire businessman Donald Trump has said he’s more serious about running for president than he’s ever been before. He’s also circled June on his calendar as the month in which he will make his intentions known. (He has to wait for “The Apprentice” season to come to a close on NBC.)

With that buzz-building backdrop, the Republican Party of Iowa announced Wednesday that Trump will headline the party’s annual Lincoln Day fund-raising dinner in June.

“Mr. Trump’s speech at CPAC earlier this year caught the attention of many political observers and as the ‘First in the Nation’ caucus state, we extended an invite to allow Mr. Trump to introduce himself to Iowa Republicans,” Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn said. “We are excited to have Mr. Trump share his vision for a better America through his experiences as an individual who has made a career as an entrepreneur and job creator,” he added.

The dinner is scheduled for Friday, June 10, in Des Moines.

It appears his Iowa stop may be part of an early state swing. Trump has already announced plans to visit New Hampshire in June.

Earlier this month, one of Trump’s senior executives, Michael Cohen, hopped on his boss’ plane for a splashy visit to Des Moines to talk with Republican leaders and activists. Cohen said he was in Iowa in a private capacity as part of his attempt to coax Trump into the race. Cohen has started a website called shouldtrumprun.com.

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