White House: Don’t expect SCOTUS to give Obamacare a popularity boost

June 29, 2012

Yesterday, the White House held a small briefing with health-care reporters to discuss the implications of the Supreme Court ruling. Unsurprisingly, the administration is thrilled with the outcome and expects implementation to continue.

There is one thing, however, senior administration officials do not expect: A big jump in the law's popularity before the 2012 election.

The reason largely has to do with the structure of the law. The biggest benefits do not roll out until 2014. That's when insurance companies can no longer deny access to coverage for any reason and Americans begin to get subsidies that make health insurance more affordable.

When that happens, later this decade and after the upcoming election, the same White House officials predicted the law will become more popular. Until then, they cautioned, no changes should be expected in how the public views it.

Polling has shown a long-standing public divide over the law pretty much since it passed over two years ago. The Kaiser Family Foundation polls on the favorability of the law each month and has generally found public opinion to be stagnant:

That's not to say the White House won't keep trying: Senior administration officials say they'll continue talking about the health-reform law. It will largely be framed as a discussion of what benefits Republicans would want to take away from the country. These are probably the benefits you've heard about before, such as extending young-adult coverage up to age 26 and ending co-pays for preventive care. That's what President Obama talked about in his Thursday speech after the Supreme Court ruling — and what you can expect him to continue discussing as we head toward November.

It's worth noting that some Democrats do think speeches like that will help make the law more popular in the short term.

"I think its going to get much more popular before the election, " Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) told me in an interview yesterday. "People will start saying that the Supreme Court made the decision, and trying to understand how it will affect their family."

There is some historical precedence for this: One study in Political Research Quarterly found that, after the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973, support for legal abortion rose, at least in the short term. That was especially true among those who were aware of the decision, as opposed to those who were not.

 

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Suzy Khimm | June 29, 2012