Analysis: Election validates Affordable Care Act
WASHINGTON — A decade after President Barack Obama took office pledging to extend health care protections to all Americans and setting off an unprecedented partisan battle, the fight is effectively over.
Years from now, the 2018 midterm election is likely to be recognized as the moment that cemented the Affordable Care Act’s position alongside other pillars of the American health care system, such as Medicare.
Most immediately, the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives precludes any new Republican campaign to repeal the law, at least for another two years.
More profoundly, these elections revealed the depth of public support — in red states and blue — for core parts of the 2010 law, often called Obamacare. And they offered a sharp warning to politicians who threaten the law’s protections.
Voters in deeply conservative states, including Idaho, Nebraska and Utah, strongly backed ballot measures to expand Medicaid and extend government health coverage to their poorest neighbors, an option made possible by the law.
At the same time, Republican candidates across the country, facing withering attacks from their Democratic opponents, went out of their way to insist they would champion safeguards for Americans with pre-existing medical conditions — even after long trying to repeal those protections.
These safeguards, once isolated to a handful of states, were enacted nationwide for the first time through the health care law and guaranteed by financial assistance to help low- and moderate-income consumers buy health coverage.
Now President Donald Trump and other GOP leaders, many still smarting from their failed push to repeal the law last year, no longer even make a pretense of offering an alternative to the current law.
“The American people have given us divided government,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday, acknowledging that repeal is no longer an option. “I think the message is: ‘Figure out what you can do together, and do it.’”
To be sure, antipathy to the health care law remains high among many conservatives.
The two political parties still hold starkly divergent views of where to take American health care, with many Democrats eyeing ways to open up the government Medicare or Medicaid programs to more people, and Republicans looking for ways to scale back government regulation of health care, as the Trump administration has already started to do.