Vox’s Ezra Klein: Obamacare Is Largely Successful, and Voters Will ‘Eventually Punish’ Its Opponents

“The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.” That proverb sums up Vox editor-in-chief Ezra Klein’s Friday analysis of the policy and politics of Obamacare.

In this metaphor, the dogs are ideologues on both sides who, heedless of evidence, have been barking (and snarling and growling) at each other about the Affordable Care Act. As Klein noted, “Social scientists have [determined that] the more information partisans get, the deeper their disagreements become. When it comes to politics, people reason backward from their conclusions.”

The caravan is Obamacare itself, which, Klein opined, is “nowhere near perfect” but in general is succeeding by “doing pretty much what it said it would do, at a lower cost than anyone thought.” Moreover, it’s gaining acceptance: “Even the reddest locales are slowly but surely coming around [on the Medicaid expansion]…It's a pretty safe bet that once Obama leaves, and some of the polarization around his signature law leaves with him, all or nearly all states will eventually participate in the law.”

From Klein’s piece (bolding added):

Obamacare stands as a monument to much that's wrong with American politics. But it also, increasingly, is evidence of much that's right with it, too…

Much of what Americans know about Obamacare is simply wrong. A plurality, for instance, think the law is costing more than originally estimated. Only 5 percent know it's actually costing quite a bit less

…[O]pinions on the law are pretty much the same as the day it passed: 83 percent of Americans say their view of Obamacare hasn't shifted over the past five years.

But the good news is, well, really good. Obamacare's premiums are much cheaper than anyone expected…[M]ost enrollees are happy with their health insurance, happy with the value they're getting for their money, and happy with their choice of doctors and hospitals…

Obamacare is an example of a depressing fact of American politics: more information doesn't change minds.

Social scientists have tested this again and again. The more information partisans get, the deeper their disagreements become. When it comes to politics, people reason backward from their conclusions…

…We know how many people [Obamacare is] covering and how much its premiums are costing and how badly Healthcare.gov was designed and how high the deductibles are and how narrow the networks are becoming and how happy people are with their insurance.

Yet no congressional Democrats have watched Obamacare's progression and turned against the law. No congressional Republicans have noticed the law covering tens of millions of people with cheaper-than-expected premiums and decided maybe it's not such a disaster after all.

If anything, the opposite has happened. In a last-ditch effort to wound Obamacare by wrecking it in Republican states, conservatives have begun developing a bizarro-earth history of the law...

Among these elites, the problem is not too little information…It is too much information that confirms their priors, and too much trust in arguments and "facts" that suit their ends…

…Obamacare is nowhere near perfect, but it's doing pretty much what it said it would do, at a lower cost than anyone thought…

…[A] majority of states have signed up [for the Medicaid expansion], and even the reddest locales are slowly but surely coming around…It's a pretty safe bet that once Obama leaves, and some of the polarization around his signature law leaves with him, all or nearly all states will eventually participate in the law...

…Most people aren't experts on politics, but they are experts on their lives and the lives of their loved ones. If the economy is tanking, or their health insurance is being yanked away, or their cousin was just wounded in an unnecessary war, they eventually punish the politicians they think responsible…

For all the rhetoric, imagine what would happen to, say, President Jeb Bush if he sought to uproot Obamacare entirely. Tens of millions of Americans would lose their health insurance overnight. Any search for a coherent replacement would spark a brutal political war within the Republican Party…The incentives of governing are very different from the incentives of politicking.

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