Each time Gallup announces that its polling shows that the percentage of uninsured continues to fall, that’s grounds for a bit more confidence that Obamacare may be working. And today, Gallup announced this for the fourth straight time, noting that the rate of the uninsured is now lower than when Obama took office:
In the U.S., the uninsured rate dipped to 15.6% in the first quarter of 2014, a 1.5-percentage-point decline from the fourth quarter of 2013. The uninsured rate is now at the lowest level recorded since late 2008.
The uninsured rate has been falling since the fourth quarter of 2013, after hitting an all-time high of 18.0% in the third quarter — a sign that the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as “Obamacare,” appears to be accomplishing its goal of increasing the percentage of Americans with health insurance coverage. Even within this year’s first quarter, the uninsured rate fell consistently, from 16.2% in January to 15.6% in February to 15.0% in March. And within March, the rate dropped more than a point, from 15.8% in the first half of the month to 14.7% in the second half — indicating that enrollment through the healthcare exchanges increased as the March 31 deadline approached.
As always, caution is in order — we don’t know for certain whether Obamacare will succeed over time — but each time Gallup reports a decline we can be a bit more confident the law is beginning to accomplish its goal. As Jonathan Cohn puts it: “because of Obamacare, more people have health insurance. The question is how many. And it’s going to be a while before anybody knows.”
Still, each Gallup finding raises a question: How much longer can Republicans continue to pretend the law’s beneficiaries don’t exist?
The Republican response to news that Obamacare has hit seven million sign-ups has been to assert that we don’t know how many people previously were covered. That’s a fair point — even proponents of the law raise it, in arguing for caution about what the seven million number really tells us. But as Larry Levitt has explained, Gallup’s continuing findings will count as further evidence that the net number of uninsured is indeed falling.
And yet some GOP lawmakers are clinging to the idea that the number of cancellations is higher than the number who gained insurance, proving a net drop in those covered. Mitch McConnell is hanging on to this claim by his fingernails, falsely insisting that this is the case in Kentucky, where hundreds of thousands have signed up through kynect, the state exchange. Meanwhile, as Sahil Kapur details, other GOP lawmakers are continuing the drumbeat that the law is nothing but an unremitting catastrophe, probably because the GOP base cannot accept any other version of reality.
As we’ve seen in the case of Americans for Prosperity’s ads, the individual horror stories have withered away under scrutiny — call it the “Incredible Shrinking Obamacare Sob Story.” Now we’re seeing that the broader GOP narrative about the law — that even if it hit sign-up targets, overall it has hurt more people than it has helped — is also getting whittled away by more and more evidence. Of course, it cannot be true that the law is functioning more or less as intended — Obamacare is fatally flawed; Republicans never entertained any other possibility — so therefore it isn’t.
And so you’ll continue to hear GOP lawmakers continue to paint the law — in rhetorical terms — as a uniform disaster. But that’s only part of the story. Some leading GOP candidates are, in fact, indicating an awareness that the politics of the law are shifting: North Carolina GOP Senate candidate Thom Tillis says that of course he’d replace Obamacare with something-or-other that accomplishes the same goals as Obamacare does. Michigan GOP Senate candidate Terri Land is making nice noises about the Medicaid expansion in the state. Scott Brown is equivocating on the expansion in New Hampshire. So you actually are seeing some GOP candidates attempting to adapt to a new reality in which Obamacare could actually work, even as they continue to denounce it as an irrevocable catastrophe.
* MORE PRESSURE COMING ON OBAMA OVER DEPORTATIONS: Obama has justified his rapid pace of deportations by arguing that mostly criminals are being targeted, but the New York Times has an important new report setting the record straight:
A New York Times analysis of internal government records shows that since President Obama took office, two-thirds of the nearly two million deportation cases involve people who had committed minor infractions, including traffic violations, or had no criminal record at all. Twenty percent — or about 394,000 — of the cases involved people convicted of serious crimes, including drug-related offenses, the records show.
Read the whole thing, which explains how Obama became the president on pace to deport two million people. This only ensures that he will come under overwhelming pressure to act to ease deportations if Republicans don’t move on reform, which in turn means the window for the GOP to act legislatively may be closing fast.
* HOUSE REPUBLICANS SECRETLY BACK IMMIGRATION REFORM: Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter made a point on Face the Nation yesterday about House Republicans that can’t be repeated enough:
If you quietly took the Republican conference, put them in the room, all off the record, you’d get 60% of the people in that room saying, “I would vote for an immigration bill.”
The only thing holding up reform are the unwillingness of House GOP leaders to develop their own proposals for the 11 million and to allow votes on them. “Distrust of Obama” has nothing to do with any of this.
* QUOTE OF THE DAY, SOFT-ON-AMNESTY EDITION: Potential presidential contender Jeb Bush is getting some attention, not all of it positive, for these remarks on people who cross the border illegally:
“Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family. I honestly think that that is a different kind of crime that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families.”
Paging Ted Cruz! Reminder: If House Republicans don’t act on reform this year, they will be debating it amid a GOP presidential primary, which could make acting even harder.
* HOUSE REPUBLICANS GRAPPLE WITH UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: With the Senate set to pass an unemployment insurance extension today, some House Republican are willing to vote on it, after all, but only to jam Senate Dems by attaching measures to it that would target — surprise! — Obamacare. Jonathan Weisman reports:
House Republican leaders have yet to decide their approach to the issue, senior aides said. Most House Republicans feel no pressure to act quickly, but some do relish the chance to send the Senate’s unemployment bill back to Senate Democrats with at least one of the measures that divide them: the Keystone pipeline, a repeal of the tax on medical devices in the Affordable Care Act or raising the hours-per-week threshold where the employer-mandated coverage kicks in.
See? Who says they’re no incentive for House Republicans to vote on UI? By the way, there’s no telling whether a UI measure with such an additional provision attached could pass the House in any case.
* DEMS LAUNCH CAMPAIGN ON EQUAL PAY: The Senate is set to vote this week on the Paycheck Fairness Act, and it will be successfully filibustered by Republicans, but the DSCC is launching a new campaign to hit GOP Senators and candidates on the issue. This, in conjunction with the push for a minimum wage hike, is all about energizing a key demographic that tends to fall off in midterms: Unmarried and downscale women.
* SCOTUS RULING BENEFITS THE “OLIGARCHS”: E.J. Dionne, on John Roberts and the recent campaign finance decision:
In his McCutcheon opinion, Roberts piously declares: “There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.” This lovely commitment escaped him entirely last summer when he and his allies threw out Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. Suddenly, efforts to protect the right of minorities “to participate in electing our political leaders” took second place behind all manner of worries about how Congress had constructed the law. The decision unleashed a frenzy in Republican-controlled states to pass laws that make it harder for African Americans, Latinos and poor people to vote.
Thus has this court conferred on wealthy people the right to give vast sums of money to politicians while undercutting the rights of millions of citizens to cast a ballot.
* AND MORE DISSEMBLING ABOUT OBAMACARE FROM McCONNELL: Glenn Kessler slaps Four Pinnochios on Mitch McConnell for claiming that 280,000 people in Kentucky received insurance cancellation letters because of Obamacare, an assertion that is supposed to prove the law is a big fiasco.
In reality, over 370,000 people have signed up through kynect, the Obamacare exchange in Kentucky, which suggests there may be a critical mass at which Alison Lundergan Grimes can begin engaging McConnell a bit more directly on what repeal would really mean to the people of the state.