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My Turn: Running on Obamacare failure is a false premise

It is impossible to ignore the New Hampshire Obamacare sign-up numbers announced last week. The number of New Hampshire people who signed up for health insurance blew away all expectations. The numbers were double what had been expected. As the Monitor reported on May 2, more than 40,000 enrolled.

As I recall, there were months of premature accusations of Obamacare failure. If you watched cable news, it was a regular right-wing sound bite. Just associate the term “Obamacare” with failure. If you say it enough times, that will make it so. The numbers now show that association is a big lie. The numbers have killed.

How to explain the success of Obamacare in New Hampshire? Credit must go to Karen Hicks, the project manager for Covering New Hampshire and a dedicated team of consumer assistants in our state who helped to connect people to and enroll them in New Hampshire’s Obamacare marketplace. They did an outstanding job. They had to overcome a rocky start with the early miserable performance of the healthcare.gov website. They were able to recover with a strong finish in March and April.

The numbers do reflect the degree of need in the community. Health care has been so expensive and insurance has been so expensive that Obamacare could not have been more timely. So many signed up because they needed it, and there was no other practical, affordable alternatives.

I do think the success of Obamacare in New Hampshire calls into question the whole political strategy of making opposition to health care reform your platform centerpiece. To maintain and sustain that, you have to ignore or obfuscate what actually has happened.

The best example of the right-wing dilemma was when a campaigning Scott Brown spoke at the home of New Hampshire state Rep. Herb Richardson, a Lancaster Republican. In his March campaign stop, Brown called Obamacare “a monstrosity.” What he did not know was that Richardson and his wife had hugely benefited from Obamacare.

Richardson had been injured at his job. He had been out of work and was receiving worker’s compensation benefits. He had lost his home as a result of his financial dilemma. Before Obamacare, he had been paying more than $1,100 a month under federal COBRA law. That was over half his income.

Under Obamacare, with the benefit of a health care subsidy, Richardson and his wife were able to lower their health insurance costs to $136 a month, an 88 percent reduction in cost. That is a reduction of almost $1,000 a month, a savings of over $10,000 a year. Richardson’s wife was quoted telling Brown “thank god for Obamacare.” Brown apparently said little in response.

This little story highlights a central problem for Obamacare opponents. They have counted on the program flopping. Instead, the program is resurgent, and it is attracting more and more people who have been in desperate need of affordable insurance. I think this is the same political problem experienced by earlier generations of right-wingers who had opposed Social Security and Medicare. Over time, these programs became more popular with the American people.

You have to ask Obamacare opponents: What is so great about being without health insurance? Is that part of your liberty, the freedom to be uninsured? Opponents have repeatedly argued Obamacare is an infringement on liberty.

I am at a loss to understand the logic of seeing receipt of Obamacare as reflecting a loss of personal freedom. The “right” to be uninsured is right up there with the right to starve. To call stuff like that a “right” is perverse. Being uninsured typically translates into an inability to access health care at all. Good luck with the emergency room.

The opponents of Obamacare have offered no credible alternative. Do opponents now want to take away affordable health insurance from the 40,000 New Hampshire residents who have signed up? They need to be asked that question. It looks like they are offering nothing but a bunch of rhetoric.

For those who are looking for health care alternatives that go further than Obamacare, I would suggest looking at Vermont’s example.

In 2011, Vermont enacted Act 48, the country’s first universal health care law. The “Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign” led by the Vermont Workers Center has been moving that effort forward. As the campaign stated, “This is the time to commit to a financing plan based on the principle of equity, which requires progressive tax-based financing so that everyone contributes according to their ability. It is time to commit to a truly universal system that puts people’s health needs first, leaves no one out, and is sufficiently funded to meet all our health care needs. The people of Vermont cannot wait any longer for a strong health care system that protects everyone’s health.”

At the federal level, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has promoted a parallel plan. Sanders has argued that health care is a right, not a privilege. He has articulated a goal of having universal affordable coverage.

It needs to be asked: Do the right-wing opponents of Obamacare think the opposite end of the spectrum is desirable? Do they want to realize their dream by having no people on insurance? Is that what liberty means? Or maybe just coverage for rich people who have no financial problem?

I see no inconsistency in supporting both Obamacare and the goal of universal coverage. Obamacare has moved us closer to the goal of full coverage. There is more than one way to skin a cat. Hats off to the Covering New Hampshire organizers and enrollment assistants! It will be interesting to see if Obamacare opponents slink off or maintain. With the new Obamacare numbers in our state, either way is a lose-lose for them.

(Jonathan P. Baird of Wilmot is an administrative law judge. His column reflects his own view and not that of his employer, the Social Security Administration.)

Legacy Comments25

I am an independent. I am fiscal conserative but liberal on soical issues. Stop mixing religion with polictics, it does not work. The one thing that I have learned is minorities always speak the loudest. I hate to say it but the Republican party are the miniority in this country. We found that out the last election for President, they still have not come to terms that the majority of this county does not agree to there conservative thoughts. I travel for work and will have a conversation with people from around the country. They actually laugh at the party and there side of the issues. That party is also dieing off in great numbers. The only place that the party is strong is in the south but they also think another civil war is coming with the north.

GREAT HEADLINES to read on the subject: 1) "Reuters can’t quite bear to say that Obamacare is a bear for New Hampshire Democrats." 2) CNN Poll: Only 12% Call Obamacare a Success

There you go again - posting the results of opinion polls as if they reflect facts.

This issue is that you folks used polls to try to prove that Americans wanted health care reform. Now it is not OK?

"If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor", "If you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance", "families will realize a $2500 savings under Obamacare". About 37% of the signups in NH are due to the people who had insurance policies cancelled, so about 11,500 forced into Obamacare. All that glitters is not gold. The majority has been inconvenienced and disenfranchised for a small minority. But it is not that progressives and Obama cared about the minority, Obamacare is about control of the populace, control of the market and power. I often wonder how an judge can be objective when his politics overshadow the law.

Please provide statistics that demonstrate how more than 50% of Americans have been inconvenienced by Obamacare. I'd even welcome statistics that show that more people have been inconvenienced than have benefitted.

First and foremost, when the employer mandate goes into effect, about 120 million people will be negatively impacted as their insurance will surely increase in premium price. But here is the March, 2014 Rasmussen poll: "Rasmussen finds that more people say they have a “very unfavorable” opinion of the law than have a favorable opinion of it at 41 and 40 percent, respectively. Fifty-six percent of respondents said they view the law unfavorably, just shy of a high of 58 percent in November of last year. Of the 40 percent who have a favorable opinion, only 16 percent view the law ”very favorably.” The one-third of Americans who say they have been hurt by the law is a slight increase from the 29 percent who said the same in January, while those saying they had been helped by the law dropped 2 percent over the same period.

First and foremost - you have no statistics to prove something that has not yet happened. Second, the Rasmussen poll does not demonstrate in any way that a majority of the population has been inconvenienced by Obamacare. An unfavorable opinion does not equate to personal inconvenience. and last I knew, 1/3 is not a majority. All you have to do is stop exaggerating, and I won't be on you like this.

First and foremost FOF, what was being said about the ACA before it started up? Folks would lose their insurance. They did. Employers would cut down their employees hours to part time. They did. The networks would be narrow because most medical providers are dropping Medicaid and Medicare patients, not taking more on. They are. We have a doctor shortage, Medical Schools are churning out specialists not GPS. They are. The employer mandate will have an even bigger impact than the individual mandate. That is why it is delayed till after the elections. You folks have a lot of excuses for what is going on. Evidently how things work is a challenge for many who depend on the govt to do the right thing. No surprise there, if they could manage their own lives, they would not need the govt to fix everything for them.

FOF, I fear there is no reasoning and that was highlighted by Ista in the above post. "Obamacare is about control of the populace, control of the market and power" These are the beliefs of someone who thinks that the government wants control. This isn't based on facts or reality, but on fear and paranoia. When people get scared they don't act or think logically. The poll I want to see is one where the question is, do you understand the new healthcare law? There have been millions and millions spent trying to scare people about health reform, with some it has worked. The anti ACA folks carry on like what we had prior to it was the best. Well then why was the number 1 complaint of business the escalating cost of providing healthcare benefits. It seems logical that of instead of cutting benefits to workers that we find a way to control costs, this is a start but I will be the first to agree it needs work not killing.

NObamaKare - brought to you by the same people that run the VA HOSPITAL DEBACLE - what could possible go wrong

I agree cobra was expensive...so much so I searched for an alternative. I bought insurance on my own. 1/4 the price. Then, when the obamacare mandates kicked in, that plan had to be cancelled. Also, the company would not quote me a yearly cost, I had to go month to month. This is a 100% true account of what happened to me. I liked my plan but could not keep it. To deny that what republicans are saying will resonate with many people might be a big mistake.

HEADLINE : SHOCK: 86 Million Workers Sustain 148 Million Benefit Takers... Real Americans simply don't believe that it is the roll of govt to provide health insurance. The supreme obligation that humans have with life is to be self sufficient. HEADLINE: NYT: Obamacare 8 Million Number Contains 'Many Duplicate Enrollments' HEADLINE: Where´s My $2,500? Just 8% Say Obamacare Lowered Their Health Costs. HEADLINE: Poll: Nearly 60% Don't Believe Obamacare Enrollment Numbers HEADLINE: Obamacare deals blow to one-doctor medicine. HEADLINE : The Growing Financial Disaster of Obamacare. If a reader trusts the NObamaKare numbers then they are incredulous to evidence.

JC said, "What you do for the least among you, you do for Me" The Republican's say, "I got mine, now get off my lawn"!

SHOCK: 86 Million Workers Sustain 148 Million Benefit Takers ...... are you sure JC intended for cradle to grave nanny state?

On Friday afternoon I got a call from the Governors office to help a family. I immediately sprang into action and met the family at Home Depot and bought them the well pump they needed. I can absolutely guarantee every single one of the liberals on this forum never receive that kind of call..... much less has a merry band of no name helper elves that help the needy on a daily basis

As usual, the poster doesn't provide any links to his "headlines". If he did, the reader would know they come from one of his far-right propaganda mills and represent a distortion of facts and reality. Any connection to the truth is purely accidental.

As usual the liberals cant google the headlines to simply educate themselves - they want someone else to do it for them as it must be too hard. Besides their liberal minds would short circuit if they read the truth.

What you laughably call "truth is anything but. It's dishonest. The only reason you don't provide links to your nonsense is because it instantly betrays itself as such. Your sites are almost never sources of real journalism, but instead partisan sites relying on funding from far-right sources with a vested interest in distorting the truth on any given issue. You've spent so much time there your own take on reality is distorted.

This reponse from a guy who cites the Huffington Post and the NY Times as unbiased sources!

RabbitNH, those are the middle of the road sites he uses for information. You forgot Salon.com, ThinkProgress.org and a litany of hard left extreme sites which rubber stamp his ideological world view and back up his agenda.

Rabbit just out of curiosity, what defines the term unbiased when it comes to information? Why would Huffington post be any more biased than judicial watch? It seems to me that no matter the source or the number of facts that PBR and Itsa would always say it's biased if it counters what they preach as the one truth under god.

If the reporters and columnists are left centric, always looking for a reason to support Obama or Democrats at any cost, then they are biased. If they are neutral, then they are not biased. If they point to things not reported by the other side (the left), then they are patriots. Read Bruce's posts, you seem to have no issue with them and he does exactly what you wrote and BPR and myself.

Couldn't agree with you more. On the subject of "infringement on rights," I think that sometimes this is code for "I don't want to pay for anyone else to get some of the same stuff I have, because I've worked hard for my stuff and I don't think they deserve the same thing." Of course, this ignores the fact that everyone who has health insurance has always paid covertly for the health care of uninsured people.

Actually FOF, we now have how many programs to help folks? How have those programs worked in regards to reducing poverty rates? Last time I checked taxpayers support those programs, all tax payers. You keep going back to all the folks at the ER who are not insured. If you actually check out facts, you will see the % of folks who use the ER that are not insured is very low, single digits actually. The ER is used by Medicaid and medicare patients, who abuse it at a high rate for non emergency issues. The employee mandate was delayed for the elections. Delayed because the fallout from that will be huge. So again you will have to come up with more excuses why the ACA keeps having problems. Read the reports from govt depts. that state who are the uninsured. Then get back to me.

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