Did you hear? Obamacare is officially popular

The Observer editorial board

Hundreds of people march in California last month to protest President Donald Trump's plan to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.
Hundreds of people march in California last month to protest President Donald Trump's plan to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. AP

Let’s take a moment from the latest Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act for some breaking news:

Obamacare is popular.

Actually, it has long been more popular than many people thought, but now it’s official. On Tuesday, Gallup announced that for the first time since it’s been tracking public opinion on the Affordable Care Act, a majority of Americans support the law.

In fact, a whopping 55 percent approve of the Affordable Care Act, with 41 percent disapproving of it. That’s a huge turnaround from five months ago, when just 42 percent supported the law and 53 percent didn’t like it.

What happened? Perception finally met reality. Although Americans have long been supportive of pieces of Obamacare – coverage for adult children and preexisting conditions were favorites in polls – the ACA as a whole got a thumbs down. That’s a testament to the effectiveness of Republicans framing the law as a failing government intrusion into your health care.

But when Republicans finally got their chance to act on that message, they were met with a surprising reality: People liked things the way they are. With Obamacare.

That’s what happened last month with the Republicans’ disastrous American Health Care Act, and it’s what’s happening again this week with a resuscitated repeal-and-replace effort. On Tuesday, that new push gained steam with reports the White House was offering the conservative Freedom Caucus a plan that got rid of Obamacare regulations surrounding preexisting conditions. By the end of the day, however, everyone had taken a couple steps back again.

The obstacles to a deal were similar to last month’s repeal collapse. It’s not merely about warring factions in the Republican Party. It’s not really about finding a seam that both moderate and conservative lawmakers can accept.

It’s about this: Constituents are letting lawmakers know they don’t want to lose the core items Obamacare offers. They don’t want to be punished for pre-existing conditions. They don’t want a significant medical event to cripple them financially because of an insurer’s lifetime limits to coverage.

Plus, they don’t want millions more Americans to go without health insurance, which is what would happen under the GOP plans discussed thus far.

Americans also have begun to realize a couple of things about what Republicans have been telling them all these years. First, a significant reason Obamacare is struggling (although not failing) is that Republicans refuse to make the repairs that could save it, including “risk corridor” payments to insurers losing money on the ACA exchanges.

Also, voters are beginning to understand that the reason Republicans want Obamacare gone so badly has at least a little to do with the healthy tax cuts that repeal would bring to the wealthiest Americans. Tax cuts aren’t in themselves a bad idea, especially to Republican voters, but they don’t like the concept so much when it comes at the expense of their health care coverage.

As it turns out, that’s true of repeal efforts as a whole. It’s why Obamacare is now officially, and not so surprisingly, a thing.