The Conversation

Contrary to Harry Reid, 29 Percent of Americans See Negative Impact from Obamacare

Harry Reid claimed Wednesday that all of the Obamacare "horror stories" are false. But a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released the same day found that 29 percent of people who say they have personal knowledge of the law's impact said it was negative. Just 17 percent said it was positive.

The Kaiser poll found that a majority, 54 percent, still say they have no experience with the law. That means there is room for the numbers to swing substantially over time. However, change is not necessarily always positive for the law's supporters.

Since October when the exchanges allowing people to buy insurance online launched, favorable impressions of Obamacare have risen 3 percent (from 14% to 17%) while negative impressions have risen 6 percent (from 23% to 29%). That's 12 points underwater now, up from 9 points back in October. This is not a good trend for those who claim people will eventually warm up to Obamacare.

In 2010, Nancy Pelosi summed up the argument of many of the law's supporters when she said "we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it – away from the fog of the controversy." Her point was that the "fog of controversy" would eventually clear leaving a law that most people would admire.

Four years later the fog of controversy is still with us, but it's worth noting that the question asked by Kaiser seems aimed at cutting through that fog and getting to people's actual experience. They asked "So far, would you say that you and your family have [personally benefited from/been negatively affected by] the health reform law, or not?" The fact that the program remains 12 points underwater strongly suggests there are real underlying problems.

Democrats have had a two-tier response to those problems. On the one hand, Pelosi's argument or some version of it, has been a frequent refrain of supporters ever since. Sure, they say, people don't like Obamacare now but in 10 months or 3 years they're going to love it. Meanwhile, the President has made more than a dozen fixes to the law, changing payment deadlines and the implementation of entire mandates to smooth over the bumps. The PR effort amounts to a hand-waving distraction from the real assessment seen in executive action.

It may be that Obamacare, or some heavily tweaked descendant, will become popular with Americans down the road. But right now, contrary to the implication of Harry Reid's statement, there is plenty of evidence both from this Kaiser poll and from the administration's own actions that the law has problems. If Democrats want to call 29 percent of Americans liars, so be it. They may find that approach doesn't go over too well in November.


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