Articles

How To Run Against ObamaCare

July 16, 2014

Liberal columnists and Democratic strategists have taken to arguing that ObamaCare is working and no longer a political negative, implying that Democratic candidates should tout it on the campaign trail. Republicans should pray they do, assuming the GOP knows how to respond.

As presidential scholar George Edwards III observed in his 2012 book "Overreach," the Affordable Care Act is "perhaps the least popular major domestic policy passed in the last century." It remains so today. A June 3 Fox News poll found 38% were "glad the health care law passed" while 55% "wish it had never passed." Only 29% thought "the country is better off" with the law while 44% said America was "worse off."

But GOP candidates can't simply rely on attacking Democrats for having voted for ObamaCare or, in the case of nonincumbents, supporting it. They should draw attention to the law's pernicious effects on ordinary Americans.

Many people who lost their existing policies because they didn't comply with ObamaCare's mandates are finding their new premiums and deductibles are much higher. Republicans should routinely campaign with families who make this vivid and real by describing how this is affecting their household budget.

There should be a special emphasis on appearing with young workers. ObamaCare's "community rating" provision means young people are charged higher premiums and deductibles than they should be, to subsidize coverage for older people. Many older workers have bigger paychecks than the young families forced to shell out more cash than their risk profile would require.

As insurers begin releasing details of next year's insurance premiums, Republicans should reach out to and appear with families getting hit by bigger bills. Mr. Obama promised premiums would go down by $2,500 per family, as did most of the Senate Democrats running for re-election this fall.

Yet many families have already seen significant price increases and will continue to see them. Recent analysis from the think tank America Next revealed that between 2010 and 2013 individuals suffered $6,039 and families $17,344 in higher premium costs because of ObamaCare's failure to cut them as promised.

This is in part because an estimated 27% of people who enrolled in ObamaCare have serious health challenges and draw on their coverage substantially more than the national average. This ObamaCare subset is roughly twice as large as the comparable group left with private insurance in the individual market.

The parade of horribles doesn't end there. ObamaCare discourages full-time jobs by requiring businesses to cover anyone working more than 30 hours a week. In June, the economy added a net of 288,000 jobs, but this was the result of America losing 523,000 full-time jobs and replacing them with 799,000 part-time ones. Only 12,000 of the 288,000 new jobs added last month were full-time. Appearing with people working part-time but desperate for full-time work will give a human face to the law's painful realities.

Then there are jobs never created because of ObamaCare. Small business owners are afraid of hitting the law's threshold of 50 full-time workers, which then makes them subject to mandates and penalties. Campaigning with small business people concerned about expanding their companies would be useful for corralling votes.

Health-care professionals like doctors, nurses, aides and hospital workers are seeing first hand the harm ObamaCare causes in their relationship with patients and their ability to provide quality care. Families who have lost access to treasured doctors and familiar networks should also be heard from.

While most of the damage from raiding Medicare to pay for ObamaCare is yet to come, seniors with Medicare Advantage policies are seeing their benefits crimped by ObamaCare's cuts to Medicare spending. They, too, can be effective witnesses.

By humanizing ObamaCare's shortfalls through stories from ordinary people, Republicans will help explode the myth of liberal competence and compassion, keep this issue fresh through the fall and cause voters to hold Democrats accountable at the polls.

Putting ObamaCare in the center of their campaigns will also force GOP candidates to spell out what they would do instead of ObamaCare. Americans do not want to return to the broken status quo in place before Mr. Obama made an even bigger mess of our health-care system.

ObamaCare was unpopular when it passed. Republican candidates must show through real-life examples why those concerns were fully justified, and how millions of lives have been unnecessarily disrupted by this liberal calamity.

A version of this article appeared July 17, 2014, in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline How To Run Against ObamaCare and online at WSJ.com.

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