In a remarkable twist of karma, health care could defeat Republicans at the polls this November.
Opposition to the Affordable Care Act helped sweep the GOP into power eight years ago. But after they spent the last year failing to repeal it while the Trump administration waged a quiet administrative war against the law, Republicans in Congress are facing the very real possibility that health care could animate the backlash that could force them out of power next year.
That is the subtext of this week's fight in Congress over whether to include stabilizing the health care law in the government spending bill. Republicans who support stabilization cite reducing premiums as their top priority: Outside experts have projected a 40 percent drop in premiums for ACA plans if stabilization measures were put in place, though estimates from the Congressional Budget Office are not quite as rosy. Those lawmakers haven't fallen in love with Obamacare or anything, but they see the political utility of lowering premiums.
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Democrats, meanwhile, know they have a winning issue on their hands. Progressive operatives note that 2019 premiums are supposed to be announced in October — just a few weeks before the election. Given that last year's premium increases were rightly attributed to Trump's sabotage — and that voters tend to blame the party in power anyway for what is right or wrong with their health care — that could provide more ammunition for the Democrats in their final attacks right before voters head to the polls.
From special elections over the past year, we know health care has been a powerful motivator for Democratic voters. In his razor-thin win in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District, Democrat Conor Lamb decisively won the health care vote. Polling uniformly shows Americans trust the minority party in Congress over the majority on health care.
Republicans can't undo all of the damage of the past year. They have already voted for various unpopular repeal bills that would have left 20 million fewer Americans with health insurance and that would have unwound protections for people with preexisting conditions.
Those attacks are baked in. The GOP's only remaining hope is to try to mitigate premium increases for next year — and then hope health care isn't enough to carry a blue wave.