After Tuesday’s Republican tsunami, pundits were spinning furiously to explain why and how it happened. President Barack Obama said he did not feel repudiated.
But the reason for last week’s Republican wave was provided a little more than a month ago — by the president himself. Mr. Obama insisted that his policies were on the midterm ballot. And his signature policy is the Affordable Care Act.
Voters don’t like the Affordable Care Act. And after this year, they’ll like it even less.
On Dec. 24, 2009, the Democrat-controlled Senate passed Obamacare with a filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority. Every Democrat voted for it, every Republican voted against it. Five years later, 28 of those Democratic senators are no longer serving. In last week’s election alone, four senators — Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Udall of Colorado (apparently, it was a bad day to be a Democrat named Mark) and Kay Hagan of North Carolina — were booted in favor of Republicans. Previously, Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold, Arkansas’ Blanche Lincoln and Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter got the boot. Just as telling is the fact that eight senators who voted for Obamacare retired rather than seek re-election. All were replaced by GOP candidates, Philip Klein of The Washington Examiner noted.
That’s a flip of 15 seats — all Democrats who voted for Obamacare — with another seat to come, as Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu is expected to lose her runoff next month against Republican Bill Cassidy. Her prospects are so bad that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced Thursday it was pulling some of its ad buys for her.
If that doesn’t represent a complete repudiation of Obamacare, then what does?
And it’s not going to get better. On Saturday, the second round of open enrollment begins on Obamacare’s federal and state exchanges. As reported last week by CNBC’s Dan Mangan, a new survey found that 51 percent of those who purchased insurance on the exchanges last year will not do so this year, with only 43 percent planning to use the exchanges to shop for 2015 plans.
Perhaps that’s because the federal exchange and many state exchanges — most certainly Nevada’s — have been disasters. In Nevada, Xerox’s effort to get the state exchange off the ground was such a debacle that the state fired the contractor in May and will now use the federal exchange — flushing somewhere between $12 million and $15 million down the toilet in the process.
Obamacare is unpopular because the legislation hasn’t come close to doing what the president promised. People can’t keep their doctors, no matter how much they like them, nor are they saving an average of $2,500 a year on premiums. The law has brought on far higher premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket health care costs. Another round of big premium increases is about to hit.
Some businesses are paring workers’ hours or dropping their benefits to avoid costly Obamacare mandates. More such mandates are on the way because they were tabled with the hope that they would help Democrats avoid the beating they took last week. The mandates that all individuals obtain Obamacare-compliant health insurance, and that most employers offer such coverage to workers, will take full effect over the next two years — and so will the tax penalties. That won’t go over well.
When the Republican-controlled Congress convenes in January, it should pass bills that would eliminate the most damaging aspects of the legislation — there is bipartisan support for several such measures, such as a full repeal of the job-killing medical device tax — and dare the president to veto those. Should he choose to do that, another round of repudiation could be served up in November 2016.