Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rescissions, Implementation, and Public Opinion

Steve Benen today points to some of the early benefits of the health care plan, arguing that quick implementation of these popular provisions will help the Democrats and hurt those who call for repeal.  It's worth pointing out that while this is true for some provisions, a lot of the general advantages of the legislation fall under the category of risk reduction -- and people are unlikely to see that as something that helped them. 

For example, Benen points to the early implementation of the ban on rescissions (in which insurance companies wait for a claim and then find some loophole to cancel a policy).  That's clearly something that helps consumers a lot, and it will be helpful to the Democrats in the sense that it could make for a good TV ad.  But it isn't a benefit in the sense of something tangible that people will have now that they didn't have in the past.  Indeed, the whole problem with rescissions was that people were shocked when it happened; normally, people expect that if they pay their premiums, they'll have coverage.  No one this fall is going to get cancer, file a claim, receive a benefit, and realize that without health care reform something might have gone wrong.

The other benefit Benen discusses, however, is a clear winner: quite a few people, presumably, are going to add their un- and underemployed 20-something kids to their insurance who could not have done so previously, and most of them will know that it was the direct result of Obama's bill. 

Meanwhile, I have to say that I'm surprised at how little we've heard from Republicans about the supposed damage that the bill has already caused.  I had predicted quite a bit of this, and so far I've heard relatively little.  Instead, the GOP seems to be doubling down on their arguments about the budgetary effects of the ACA, including the 10/6 myth (here for example is Rep. Cliff Stearns repeating it) and the 16K IRS agents myth.  In other words, while I thought they would seize on examples of health care system problems and (inaccurately, but perhaps effectively) blame them on parts of the law that have not yet taken effect, instead Republicans seem to be continuing the Betsy McCaughey strategy of finding an inconsequential provision, distorting its meaning, and then predicting disaster when it is implemented.  Perhaps that's a better strategy, perhaps not, but either way it's not what I predicted, so I did want to get on the record as saying that so far, I've been wrong about this one.

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