Anal­y­sis: Elec­tion val­i­dates Af­ford­able Care Act

Lodi News-Sentinel - - NATION - By Noam N. Levey

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.

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