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Moving to the Right Won’t Help Obamacare Politically

Robert Gibbs thinks a problem with the ACA is it doesn’t offer crappy enough insurance options and needs something below Bronze.

Remember when Democrats promised the Affordable Care Act was a “starter home?” Well some Senate Democrats think it should be the starting point for even more conservative health care policies.

A groups of conservative Democrats are suggesting some “fixes” to Obamacare which include pushing for the sale of insurance across state lines and an even worse high deductible option known as a “Copper Plan.” Even Former Obama advisor Robert Gibbs thinks a problem with the ACA is it doesn’t offer crappy enough insurance options and needs something below Bronze.

Moving the ACA to the right is not just bad policy but really bad politics for two simple reasons.

Republican voters aren’t going to be won over with policy concessions

According to Gallup by far the biggest factor in determining someone’s opinion of the law is their party affiliation, this is even more important than ideology. Opposition to Obamacare has become a tribal identifier among Republicans. It is about team sides, not a few small policy differences. If top Republican leaders were willing to trade publicly endorsing the ACA for some policy concessions, that could change poll numbers, but there is zero chance of that happening this year. Republicans didn’t take that deal in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 or 2013.

Democrats should have learned that if essentially adopting the Heritage health care plan wasn’t enough of a policy concession to win over right-leaning voters, a new round of small conservative policy changes isn’t going to make any difference.

Democrats need to worry about the law’s left flank

Moving the law to the right is unlikely to pick up any supporters on that front and it really risks costing it support on its left. The law already has a weak left flank. Polling shows that 14 percent of people who actively oppose Obamacare do so because it doesn’t go “far enough.” They see it as a corporate sellout.

Moving the law farther to the right risks pushing more current supporters into this camp. Since this group is unlikely to vote for Republicans this November concessions would make them less likely to turn out in November. Democrats’ big problem in a low turnout midterm is not getting a small sliver of swing voters, it’s getting their voters to vote.

Since Republican Congressional cooperation is hopeless, Democrats’ best chance of making the ACA popular is pushing changes to win over the left. They are at least potentially persuadable and a large enough group to get the law bare majority support.

Photo by Broadbent Institute under creative commons license

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at