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Saturday, August 23, 2014

GOP Being Careful About Obamacare

Surprisingly, Republicans Are Liking It Now.

About a year ago, Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens bragged to a crowd of fellow Republicans: “Let me tell you what we’re doing [about ObamaCare]: Everything in our power to be an obstructionist.”

Now as a rule Republican policymakers at least pretend to care about working constructively, blaming the President for not being willing to compromise on their proposals. Yet here was a state official boasting about his deliberate embrace of obstructionism. Not that we didn’t know, but this one said it on camera

Karma’s a bitch, and this week, Hudgens said he didn’t really mean it. Really.

Hudgens said, “I spoke to a Republican group in Rome, Ga., and I said I was going to be an obstructionist, but I can’t be. I mean, I was talking to a Republican group and I was throwing them some red meat.” Oh, really? What a surprise. Another honest statement. Could this obstructionist really be the only honest official in Georgia? Hudgens added yesterday that the number of private insurers competing for Georgia consumers’ business has nearly doubled – these companies “took a wait and see attitude and now they’ve come in” – which may expand the public’s choices and possibly lower prices.

In other news, The Oklahoman reported yesterday that Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a far-right Republican and fierce ACA critic, “applied to participate in an Affordable Care Act program designed to help states develop innovative models for delivering care and reducing costs for participants in Medicaid, Medicare and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.”

It would seem over this last week we’ve seen a sea change in the politics of health care. As anyone following beltway politics knows, the narrative established earlier this year was that the Affordable Care Act is a political disaster for Democrats, and that will help create a GOP “wave” in 2014 – but this two-step is nevertheless hard to miss for those who care to look.

Rachel Maddow reports, “Republican campaigns are even moving away from anti-ACA advertising; Republican candidates are increasingly reluctant to say whether they intend to take ACA benefits away from constituents; other Republican candidates are grudgingly conceding that there’s “no doubt” the ACA has helped people; and we now see Republican officials embracing key elements of the ACA they used to reject.”

Sahil Kapur, Talking Points Memo senior congressional reporter, reports, the fact that “Obamacare is working largely as intended” has created a new political framework.

In Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) has been tripped up by the fact that Obamacare has cut his state’s uninsured rate by more than 40 percent. In Connecticut, early warnings of a 12.5 percent premium hike by one insurer turned out to be wrong; the insurer actually revealed it will lower its average premiums in 2015, albeit very slightly.

In short, Obamacare is working largely as intended. Tee hee. More than 10 million Americans have gained coverage and the national uninsured rate is falling, with better results obviously in states that embraced it. Not surprisingly, many of the horror stories touted by opponents have turned out to be exaggerated or false.

As a result, Republicans have tamed their attacks on Obamacare, and national Democratic strategists are less worried about it hurting their candidates. It looks like the GOP is going to have to pick a different fight leading into November.

Maddow adds, since its inception, “Republicans and much of the conservative political establishment was convinced that the Affordable Care Act was Katrina and Watergate combined. This was a catastrophic disaster, we were told, that would destroy Obama’s presidency and quite possibly ruin the very idea of progressive governance.”

Now that the ACA is succeeding and the political winds have changed direction, it seems health care isn’t going to be a driving factor leading to the polls. Of course, the man on the street may have already been programmed with Limbaugh, Ted Cruz, and FOX’s 24/7 abuse of even the term “Obamacare,” so only time will tell how the balance of Congress will work itself out this fall.

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