Hey, Gov. Walker: Frothing Obamacare hatred is so 2013

Imagine if you had made a $206 million bet using other people’s money and that bet turned out to be completely wrongheaded, reckless, and above all, self-serving and vindictive.

Would you expect to get your comeuppance?

Well, not if you’re Scott Walker, and not if you can rely on the expert help of the Fox News propaganda team — a group of fine patriotic middle-aged men and beatific young women who, despite being preoccupied nearly full time with either creepily leering or being creepily leered at, still manage to produce some fine grade A Republican ad copy.

But it’s becoming more obvious every day that Walker backed the wrong horse-dooky and that his full-scale rejection of the Affordable Care Act — including $206 million (and counting) in federal Medicaid dollars (i.e., our own tax money) — was a bad bet for Wisconsin.

Recently, in a speech at Northwestern University — our oft-beleaguered president took on Fox News and its 24/7 guerrilla war against sensible health care policy:

There’s a reason fewer Republicans are running against Obamacare — because while good, affordable health care might seem like a fanged threat to the freedom of the American people on Fox News, it’s working pretty well in the real world.

Did that ever give the righties in the echo chamber an attack of the vapors. They fluttered their fancy sandalwood hand fans and sprayed mint julep into the thermosphere like circus sideshow fire breathers, appalled that this truculent black man would dare impugn their honor.

Why, lord above, simply everyone knows that Obamacare is one of the worst things ever to happen to this country — worse than the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, and even the estate tax. What on God’s green earth is this Kenyan-born communist talking about?

Well, a lot has happened since HealthCare.gov was launched last October by some HHS employee’s 16-year-old nephew on top of what may or may not have been an abandoned Dawson’s Creek MySpace.com fan page.

For one thing, the website is fixed. One short year ago, it looked like the Internet would doom us all, validating the lingering fears of pretty much every person over 75 in this country. But the online portion of the ACA has been operating pretty smoothly for some time.

But what about all that other doom and gloom? The idea that more people would become uninsured than would become newly insured? That Obamacare would kill old ladies and their cats? That insurance premiums would spiral out of control? That health care costs would go through the roof? That the deficit would swell uncontrollably?

It didn’t happen. Now, for the most part, the general public doesn’t know it didn’t happen. You can tell, because polls still reflect a general dissatisfaction with the ACA, and Republicans are still milking the negative public sentiment for all its worth.

In fact, our very own Scott Walker recently ran a menacing campaign ad — complete with pretty much every rhetorical flourish in the GOP arsenal short of a CGI’d Mary Burke-to-Barack Obama-to-Joseph Stalin-to-Janeane Garofalo-to-Hitler face morph — in which he accused his opponent of supporting Obamacare “unequivocally.”

But this sort of attack is unlikely to work forever, because — hold onto your fancy ridin’ breeches — Obamacare is working. In fact, in some ways, it’s working better than expected.

But let’s back up a moment. For starters, the Affordable Care Act has never been as unpopular as advertised. “Obamacare” is deeply unpopular, but the essence of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is popular as puppies. In other words, while Americans may not like scary Obamacare, polls have consistently shown that they like just about everything in it — including Medicaid expansion (which Gov. Walker rejected), requiring insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions, and allowing dependents to stay on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26.

In fact, a Stanford University study conducted in October 2012 (PDF), when Obamacare’s approval ratings were even lower than they are now, concluded that “if the public had perfect understanding of the elements [of the ACA], the proportion of Americans who favor the bill might increase from the current level of 32% to 70%.”

Imagine that. What could possibly account for such a discrepancy?

But aside from the public liking the core principles behind Obamacare, the reality behind Obamacare is even more lovable.

Jonathan Cohn, a senior editor for The New Republic, recently wrote an article in which he demolished seven of the most popular horror stories about Obamacare.



In the column, titled “7 Charts That Prove Obamacare Is Working,” Cohn demonstrates that:

  1. More people have health insurance.
  2. People who are getting health insurance are almost certainly better off.
  3. “Winners” probably outnumbered “losers” in the new marketplaces.
  4. Premiums in the marketplaces aren’t rising quickly, and more insurers are jumping in to compete.
  5. Employer premiums also aren’t rising quickly.
  6. Overall health care costs are rising at historically low rates.
  7. The net effect on the budget has been to reduce the deficit.

In fact, for those worried that the ACA will end up being a budget-buster, Cohn has this soothing reality check:

The more information we get, the more it seems that the [Congressional Budget Office] underestimated the savings [of the ACA]. According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the total bill for federal health care programs in the near future is likely to be lower than experts had predicted when Obamacare first became law.

In other words, our governor and the GOP as a whole went all-in against a program that, in one short year, is already proving its mettle. They’ve already lost the bet — in the meantime hurting plenty of people and, in Walker’s case, damaging our state’s economy — but they’re going to keep gambling as long as the casino keeps extending them credit.

That credit will dry up as soon as the public gets wise. It’s high time we did.

Here’s the easy tagline you should never forget — and never forget to mention: The U.S. has traditionally paid far more per capita on health care than all other industrialized nations — all of which have some form of universal care — and for the most part, we’ve gotten worse results.

Obamacare is an attempt to change that. It’s hardly perfect (single-payer would have no doubt been a better option), but so far, so good.

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