A botched website launch, a you-can-keep-your-plan promise that didn't quite pan out, fears of increasing premiums, decreasing choices, job cuts, death panels – these Obamacare memes make it hard to be a Democrat these days. Less than a year from now, when voters head to the polls for the 2014 midterm elections, public perceptions of the Democratic Party's ability to govern will affect election results and the course of the nation. How big a role the Affordable Care Act (ACA) plays in the midterms will depend on the messaging from both parties and the public's general satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, with the health reform law.
There is a lot at stake. The GOP needs only a net gain of six seats to command the U.S. Senate. Public disenchantment with the ACA could easily thwart Democrats' plans to wrest the gavel from Speaker Boehner's hand. Gubernatorial races will be held in 36 states.
The ACA is certainly not the only issue. A poor economy and high unemployment led to a Republican sweep of the 2010 midterms. The economy is slowly making gains, but if Obamacare proves to be the train wreck the GOP continually insists it is, those maps the news channels post on election night may well be covered in red.
An average of polls conducted the over the last three weeks show that 57 percent of Americans disapprove of the ACA. This disapproval rating has risen nearly 10 percent since mid-October, before problems with the Healthcare.gov website, and the you-can-keep-your-plan debacle hit primetime.
Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, Chairman of the Congressional Oversight Committee, is actively seeking people to testify at committee field hearings about their negative experiences with the ACA. Cancelled polices, reported increases in rates and out-of-pocket expenses, and a crashing website, all place a tremendous burden on the American people, according to Issa.
In a December 5 op-ed piece in The Arizona Republic, Issa wrote, "For too long, this darker side of the Affordable Care Act has been hidden from Congress and the American people." His committee seeks to flush out this "dark side." Republicans are embracing ACA stumbles as an opportunity to gain seats in Congress.
This strategy will work if the new law continues to have problems. The healthcare website appears to be functioning better. People are enrolling. The President gave insurance companies permission to continue offering non-compliant policies for another year, easing some of the anxiety over cancellation notices. The Administration is continually delaying provisions to ease the transition for businesses, such as delaying the penalty on employers with 50 or more employees that fail to offer health insurance benefits.
Election Day 2014 is more than 300 news cycles away. If the Democrats keep pounding away at the "look at all the great benefits of the ACA" message, and the law actually works to provide affordable health insurance to the previously uninsured, Republicans may have to develop new talking points to keep fear and loathing of Obamacare, and their designs on the Senate, alive.
Gillian Burdett is a freelance writer covering all things home and living. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.
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