The law has never been popular with the American public.
The question of Obamacare has been declared final repeatedly and consistently. During the debate over its passage, it was always one more Obama speech from being settled once and for all. Afterward, Democrats predicted there was no way to repeal it, and its popularity was just around the corner. The court challenge was pooh-poohed as another instance of futile resistance. Now that the law has barely hung on thanks to the Roberts triple lutz, the state of the debate is said to be — as ever — over.
If so, supporters have lost it in the arena of public opinion. Upon its passage, the New York Times/CBS poll found that it had 32 percent support. Before the Supreme Court decision, the New York Times/CBS poll found its support essentially unchanged at 34 percent. A different poll — from Reuters/Ipsos — detected a bump in support for the law after the decision from 43 percent to 48 percent. But a majority, 52 percent, still disapproved of it in the immediate wake of headlines about the Supreme Court’s blessing.
Mitt Romney pledges that if he is elected, he will act to repeal it on his first day in office. That’s a tall order, even with a Republican House and a narrowly Republican Senate. But between legislative action, the resistance of Republican governors, and the flexibility accorded bureaucrats by the law, it can effectively be rendered a dead letter over time.
How about all the wonders of the law? Doesn’t it reduce the deficit? Only under optimistic Congressional Budget Office projections. Doesn’t it keep young adults up to the age of 26 on their parents’ insurance plans? Most insurance companies will probably do this anyway. The two central selling points of the law — insuring millions more people and keeping people with pre-existing conditions from getting locked out of insurance — can be addressed with policies that are cheaper and less disruptive (a tax credit for purchase of insurance and high-risk pools, respectively).
When they set out to pass health-care reform, Democrats could have built public support for a sweeping law, or scaled back their ambitions. They did neither. Their insistence that the debate is over is a function of their continued failure to win genuine acceptance of the law. It’s still up in the air, even after the great John Roberts has spoken.
— Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2012 by King Features Syndicate.