Column | More Americans favor Obamacare, but the Republican Party still hates it

Barbara Shelly is a columnist for the Kansas City Star.
Barbara Shelly is a columnist for the Kansas City Star. Kansas City Star

Here’s a disconnect for you.

Sixty-four percent of Americans now say they want to keep the Affordable Care Act around, either with some “small modifications” (51 percent) or as it is (13 percent).

Only 34 percent still want to repeal the law, according to a new Bloomberg National Poll.

Yet Republicans in Congress and state legislatures remain obsessed with Obamacare and spend vast amounts of time coming up with creative ways to undermine the law.

Just last week, the Kansas Senate passed a truly obnoxious bill targeting “navigators,” the workers who help people register for health insurance in the online exchange marketplace.

The bill would require the navigators, most of whom are volunteers, to get fingerprinted, produce their credit ratings, undergo background checks and pay a $100 annual fee for the privilege of helping their fellow Kansans.

Oh, and if someone filed a complaint about a navigator, the attorney general’s office would investigate. (Why not the state insurance department?) The AG’s office could charge navigators for the cost of being investigated.

The Missouri Senate also has passed a navigator harassment bill this year, even though similar legislation passed last year has been struck down by a judge. The Missouri bill would require navigators to get background checks and be bonded for $100,000.

In Washington, the GOP-controlled House has passed a bill that makes necessary changes to Medicare’s flawed system of paying doctors — but only if the mandate in the Affordable Care Act that individuals must purchase health insurance is delayed for five years. Just a few weeks ago, the House passed a bill, sponsored by GOP Rep. Lynn Jenkins of Kansas, to delay the individual mandate until 2015.

A delay in the individual mandate, as Republicans well know, would crater the entire health care law by keeping healthy Americans out of insurance pools. It’s another of those great Obamacare-is-a-train-wreck opportunities, with Republicans sabotaging the rails.

The Obama administration has agreed to too many delays and extensions in the Affordable Care Act already. It must not cave on the individual mandate.

If you think the legislative obstruction is extreme — and it is — wait until campaign season heats up.

Republicans just won a special congressional election in Florida by relentlessly hammering the Democratic candidate about her support for Obamacare. Look for Obamacare to be front and center in legislative races this summer and fall.

Why are continuing attacks on Obamacare so effective even as growing numbers of people are benefiting from the law?

Well, there’s been a barrage of distorted news about the Affordable Care Act since its birth in the U.S. Congress. We’ve gone from lies about “death panels” to breathless and mostly false stories about sick Americans forced to ante up thousand more for health insurance.

There’s also the possibility that some Americans don’t realize that the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare are one and the same. Actually, that’s more than a possibility. TV host Jimmy Kimmel sent a reporter out to the streets to ask people whether they preferred one to the other, then aired some remarkably uninformed responses, like this man’s interview:

“Do you think Obamacare is socialist?”

“Yes I do.”

“Do you think the Affordable Care Act is socialist?”


And there’s that word: Obamacare. Support for Obamacare indicates support for Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States. That’s all it takes to send some voters running.

Well-funded GOP interest groups recognize that dynamic and capitalize on it.