The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The GOP’s potent new anti-Obamacare argument, in 2 maps

In 2013, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) articulated what was a general belief among Democrats: the Affordable Care Act would help the party. Granted, the timeframe Reid predicted was that it would help last November — during the election that in fact relegated Reid to minority-leader status. But the idea that being the party that helped Americans get access to affordable health care would be a boon was not unique to Reid.

For a long time, Obamacare was viewed fairly negatively, according to regular polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation. In recent surveys, though, attitudes are about evenly split.

So maybe the legislation is poised to be a boon for Democrats in 2016!

Or, maybe not. A lot of those opinions are inextricable from partisanship. The graph of favorability of the Affordable Care Act by party...

... looks an awful lot like the graph of approval of President Obama by party.

Except Obama is more popular than the ACA.

Polling shows that people are more likely to view the Affordable Care Act negatively if the pollsters use the informal name for the bill: Obamacare. Obamacare and Obama are unpopular with Republicans. Once Obama is out of the White House, will that change?

We'll see, but this map won't help.

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump has repeatedly inveighed against the expected increases in ACA premiums in 2016. Citing requested increases from states, Trump claimed that Obamacare premiums would jump by a third, which wasn't true. But with the enrollment period just beginning, analysis from Kaiser shows that premiums are going up — often by large amounts.

Between 2014 and 2015, premiums in most states (as evaluated in major cities in the states) declined slightly — by 0.5 percent on average.

Between 2015 and 2016, those premiums climbed, as the map above shows. On average, the increase is 10.2 percent.

Health care costs went up before the Affordable Care Act, of course. But even in a document presented by the White House while arguing for passage of the ACA, the average annual increase for an individual each year was only 5.5 percent between 2004-2005 and 2008-2009. It is important to note that the prices above are before federal subsidies. Once those subsidies are applied, the cost drops slightly in nearly every case. We'll also note that the legislation has been effective at reducing the numbers of uninsured, but that's often because of the expansion of Medicaid.

Trump's numbers might have been wrong, but his political argument is likely to resonate, especially once paired with anecdotal stories about cost increases. Independent voters are already more likely to be skeptical of the ACA than voters on the whole, making this a decent argument for Republicans on the campaign trail.

Opponents of Obamacare have done a good job of making the policy a political issue. It seems likely, especially given the new premiums, that this will continue into 2016.