If there’s a bigger hot-button issue in American politics than the Affordable Care Act that would be news to millions who either love or love to hate President Obama’s signature legislation. While there’s no doubt the law has issues, and implementation went about as smooth as a dirt road through the jungle, the biggest issue faced by both the Obama and Trump administrations is public relations related to the issue.
Congress has attempted to act on the Act in the past, but those bills were little more than symbolic gestures. They knew Obama would always veto any bills that sought to repeal or replace the ACA.
But things are different now. Trump spent a large portion of his campaign promising to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. How he would do that and what a replacement plan would look like was rarely discussed. For his followers – and his detractors – it was enough that Trump was talking about Doing Something about the bill.
Millions of Americans blame the Act for massive hikes in insurance premiums, while tens of millions have health coverage they would not be able to get except for the Act. It’s an unsustainable détente. Some Americans literally can’t afford insurance, and others literally can’t live without it. So, which side should Congress and the incoming President choose? Who gets the benefits, and who gets the shaft?
That’s exactly how any action on this Act is being framed, an Us v. Them narrative that doesn’t ask or even hope for a more nuanced approach to an unsustainable financial problem.
Worse, for lawmakers trying to determine what to do based on public consensus … there really isn’t much to go on. While only one in four Americans want President-elect Trump to repeal the entire bill, tens of millions are spitting mad over massive premium hikes, and have vowed anarchy in the voting booth if Congress doesn’t – finally – take action.
Elected officials like to look for trends when determining how and when to vote. At this point, public support for “repeal and replace” is trending down, even among staunch Republicans. Support for repeal went from 69 percent to around 52 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, by way of the Associated Press.
Pundits and survey wonks think it’s possible, now that the folks have won their protest vote, they’re more willing to think in moderation … and they hope their government will do the same. But what is an official, elected on a different mandate, to make of that?
Jay Sekulow is the Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law & Justice.