Sen. Chuck Schumer

I find Brian Beutler’s criticism of claims made by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) about health care reform in 2009 to be emblematic of why Democrats and liberals have not been able to sell the ACA to the public. From the New Republic:

Substantively, Schumer is understating how positive the Affordable Care Act is to the middle class—even if the law’s middle-class benefits, and the security net it places under middle-income people, aren’t always obvious or tangible. Most middle class people already had health insurance, but their risk of losing it, or of experiencing a medical bankruptcy despite their coverage, has essentially disappeared.

While Democrats, liberals, and President Obama frequently made the claim that the Affordable Care Act would eliminates medical bankruptcies it simply isn’t true. We know from Massachusetts that medical bankruptcy remains common even after their health care law was adopted.

Under the law the out of pocket maximums are still too high for many people to afford and there are still serious holes in the coverage protection. Just this month there was a high profile story of a women who faces medical bankruptcy because the ambulance took her to an out of network hospital. The ACA does improve the situation for some, but doesn’t fix the problem.

Instead of making the law actually do what Democrats promised (i.e. making insurance truly affordable, making shopping for coverage very easy, provide complete consumer protection, and eliminating medical bankruptcy) they just hopped the public would be too stupid to notice its shortcomings. It is a clear case of over promising and under delivering.

Unfortunately, many supporters of the ACA have actually bought their own hype and now seem genuinely confused why the public is disappointed. Democrats aren’t going to be able really fix the ACA and creating something the public will support, until they stop the self-delusion.

Photo by Third Way under Creative Commons license

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