A Pew Research Center poll last week showed low- and middle-income Republicans, in particular, have warmed to the idea of a government role in health care. A majority of GOP and GOP-leaning voters making less than $30,000 a year — 52 percent — now say that they think the federal government should make sure all Americans have health coverage. That number is up from 31 percent in March of last year.
Among those making between $30,000 and $74,999, the number has risen similarly, from 14 percent to 34 percent. Overall, 60 percent of Americans would like the federal government to guarantee health-care coverage, up from 51 percent just 10 months ago.
Then, on Tuesday, a new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll showed people actually like the concept of Obamacare more than ever before.
For the first time ever, more respondents say the law was a good idea (45 percent) than say it was a bad idea (41 percent), and the number saying it was a good idea has risen double-digits from where it was in 2013 and 2014.
Three years ago, 50 percent said it was a bad idea, while just 34 percent said it was a good one.
This doesn't come, mind you, at a time when we're suddenly learning a bunch of great news about Obamacare. In fact, we're only a couple months removed from large increases in premiums. And polling has shown Americans are still split about evenly when it comes to keeping Obamacare vs.getting rid of it.
But as the reality of Obamacare repeal has begun to set in, the opposition seems to have morphed and taken its foot off the gas. We even saw this shortly after the 2016 election, when Republicans suddenly soured a bit on full repeal of Obamacare and embraced a more piecemeal approach. Previously, 7 in 10 Republicans had called for complete repeal; after the election, that number dropped to 52 percent.
The totality of the polling is crystal clear: About half the country liked the idea of getting rid of something they didn't agree with — at least in the abstract. But the reality has proven much more complicated. And the guarantees that come with government-involved health care are suddenly looking more and more attractive.
As I've argued before, entitlement programs and government benefits have a way of sticking around and resisting change, because people become accustomed to them and taking them away or altering them is more difficult than never having given them in the first place. Twenty million Americans have become insured under the Affordable Care Act, and now Republicans are faced with getting rid of it — with an indeterminate replacement.
Also driving home this point is the new Congressional Budget Office estimate of the cost of repeal, which came out Tuesday. It shows 18 million people would lose insurance in the first year if Obamacare is repealed with no replacement, and 32 million would lose it over a decade. In addition, costs for those seeking non-group insurance would double.
This, it's important to emphasize, is if the GOP simply repeals Obamacare with no replacement, which is not the party's plan. It is now working to craft its alternatives, and we'll have to see what they are. At this point, it seems very unlikely Republican members of Congress would support repealing the Affordable Care Act without a replacement, so these estimates are very much in the realm of the hypothetical.
But it does demonstrate the stakes of getting rid of Obamacare without a solid alternative and without providing “insurance for everybody,” as Trump promised over the weekend.
That's a prospect that is clearly scary to a large number of Americans, who have apparently decided they're okay with government-involved health care. We'll have to see how much a Republican Party that has long decried such things will come around to the idea, too.