In September 2010, six months after signing the Affordable Care Act and just weeks before his party's massive losses in the midterm elections, President Obama wondered whether the law's unpopularity might be due to a communication failure on his part. "Sometimes I fault myself,"he told an audience in Virginia, "for not having been able to make the case more clearly to the country."
There was nothing wrong with the president's communication skills. The case he made for his sweeping health care overhaul was straightforward and appealing: It would make health insurance available to every American, especially the more than 40 million people who were uninsured. It would significantly reduce insurance premiums for individuals and families. It would guarantee that Americans who already had a health plan they liked, or a doctor they liked, would be free to keep them.
The case for ObamaCare was perfectly clear. But those claims rang false even before the law was passed. Nothing is left of them now — and another midterm election season is underway.
The Affordable Care Act turned 4 years old this week, as unpopular as ever. It has been underwater in hundreds of national polls, frequently by double-digit margins. Despite the elaborate and relentless marketing campaign the White House and its allies mounted in support of the law, Americans don't like it any better now than they did back when Democrats muscled it through Congress over unified Republican opposition.
By its proponents' own empirical benchmarks, ObamaCare has been a debacle. The rosy promises about no one being forced to change doctors or health plans have been ditched. So has the enticing prospect of $2,500 premium reductions for every family. Instead, the "Affordable" Care Act in most states is driving up underlying premiums, even doubling them in some parts of the country.