Muftic: Why Obamcare wasn’t so big on campaign trail |

Muftic: Why Obamcare wasn’t so big on campaign trail

Felicia Muftic
Courtesy Photo |

If you believed the pundits at the beginning of this summer, the midterms were going to be about Obamacare and the economy. In fact, jobs and the economy were at the top of the voter concern list in any poll.

But in nearly every Senate race, not only in Colorado, it became as much or more about social issues and last-minute fearmongering about the rise of ISIS and Ebola. How did that happen?

Aside from campaign strategy that crafted negative political ads to put fire in the belly of specific demographic groups, something else was at work. Neither Obamacare nor the economy turned out to be political gold mines. None of the disasters predicted earlier happened to Obamacare. In fact, the American Medical Association said it was working as designed: Eight million both signed up and paid premiums and would not take kindly to the GOP trying to yank away insurance the most ever were able to afford for the first time in their lives. Nationwide, ACA premiums did not soar. The GOP came up with no viable alternatives, so calls for repeal became underplayed lip service.

In Grand County the percentage of the uninsured was cut by half in the first nine months of the year, and the ACA will kick into higher gear with mid-November enrollments. The premiums in the Colorado exchange will rise only a little over 1 percent this coming year and the silver plan will fall by over 10 percent.

Nationwide ACA premium increases came in under 5 percent increase. In Connecticut 2014 rates had been very high, but giant United HealthCare decided to participate in the state ACA exchange for 2015, and premiums dropped by nearly 5 percent.

Partisanship was another factor. Voters viewed Obamacare through glasses tinted by their politics. Democrats liked it; Republicans did not. Polls showed that individual provisions of Obamacare, with subsidies and Medicaid expansion making insurance affordable for the lower middle class and providing coverage of pre-existing conditions, were always popular.

Better-heeled Republicans still thought Obamacare was a failure. It did not benefit them, and besides, Obama’s name was attached. Polls were so dismal that Democrats could not make a big deal of its success.

The economy had improved considerably, but not enough for everyone to beat the drums of victory or to damn the results with any credibility. Many in the lower income brackets had found jobs, but wages were depressed, and trickle-down economics barely dripped or worse.

On the other hand, core constituents of the GOP, those in the upper income levels and most seniors, were doing fine, thank you. They felt the rewards of a booming Wall Street and a more robust business sector, but they wanted it to do even better.

Democrats did accuse the Republicans of opposing minimum wage or making it more expensive to finance college, but it never seemed to be a decisive argument that appealed to the middle class. Only incumbent governor John Hickenlooper made it a campaign slogan that “Colorado was back” and the economy was among the best in the country.

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