By MARSHA MERCER
Mitt Romney promised during his presidential campaign to repeal the health law on his first day in office.
Big mistake, he says now.
“I think Obamacare attractiveness…was something we underestimated, particularly among lower incomes,” Romney said in an interview March 3 on “Fox News Sunday,” adding, “Obamacare was very attractive, particularly to those without health insurance.”
Leaving aside the reference to people as “lower incomes,” this is like Romney’s saying he underestimated how attractive food is to someone who’s starving.
A hungry person chooses a meal over a sermon on the virtues of eating less. Who knew?
And yet it didn’t dawn on Romney until too late that when 49 million people are uninsured, that’s a lot of votes for someone else who’s trying to make their lives better. President Barack Obama got 65 million votes last November.
If the enlightened Romney was trying to warn Republicans to back off their war on Obamacare, it didn’t work. House Republicans are in denial about the Affordable Care Act – even though the Supreme Court upheld it, Obama got four more years and the Senate stayed in Democratic hands.
House Republicans keep fighting. They may be encouraged by the tepid approval that Americans have in polls for the Affordable Care Act.
When President Obama signed the health law March 23, 2010, in a festive White House ceremony, 46 percent of people approved of the law and 40 percent disapproved, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
An optimistic Obama declared, “The bill I’m signing will set in motion reforms that generations of Americans have fought for and marched for and hungered to see.”
In fact, the signing set in motion non-stop barrage of opposition.
House Speaker John Boehner called it a “somber” day for the American people, and House Republicans haven’t stopped bashing since.
Although Obama won the 2012 election, Republicans think they’re winning the marketing war. So, although they look foolish when they insist on voting year after year to repeal a law that has been upheld, they continue to tarnish the law. Yes, many of them support some of the law’s provisions.
Support of the health law nationally has dropped to 37 percent. Forty percent view the law unfavorably and the rest declined to answer, a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation reported Wednesday.
The law was designed so that popular provisions went into effect first. It allows young people under 26 to stay on their parents’ insurance, abolishes lifetime caps on benefits, prohibits insurers from refusing to cover children with pre-existing conditions, provides free preventive services and begins closing the donut hole for seniors’ prescription drugs.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says 3 million young people now have health insurance through their parents, 100,000 very sick people are receiving insurance through high-risk pools, and Medicare costs are actually dropping.
This is good news, but… Most people – 62 percent – haven’t seen any effects of the law, and only 17 percent say they’ve seen benefits like lower costs or greater access to care, according to Kaiser. A larger share, 22 percent, say they or their family have been negatively affected by higher costs or cuts in benefits.
And that’s a problem for Obama. With carrots first, people were supposed to accept sticks later. In January, mandates kick in requiring that individuals have health insurance and businesses with 50 full-time employees offer insurance -- or pay penalties.
Republicans now are trying to kill funding, just as the government is creating insurance marketplaces or exchanges where individuals and small businesses will shop for insurance.
With many details yet to be worked out, small-business owners worry. They want to help their employees, comply with the law and stay in business. Those goals should be compatible.
Romney realized belatedly that the uninsured matter. It’s time Obama recognizes that small businesses matter. Senate Democrats need to make sure that the administration has the money to make the law a success.
© 2013 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.