How the GOP Bet on Failure And Lost

Angry Man Raging Shutterstock
Start your day with TPM.
Sign up for the Morning Memo newsletter

On Obamacare, the Republican party has bet big on failure for four years. Now the results are in. And they lost. Big time.

Of course, substance policy success and political outcomes aren’t the same thing. And just as importantly they do not always run on the same time scale. So it is entirely possible. I would say it is likely that the GOP will still derive benefits this November from the core of voters who are extremely upset about Obamacare, extremely motivated to vote and also happen to be the same people who routinely turn out in disproportionate numbers in mid-term elections. But on the core of the policy, which I think there is good reason to believe will align with political outcomes in the future, the results are in. And they lost.

The success metrics are plentiful, manifold and really impossible not to see unless you’re refusing to see them. We now know that despite the calamitous roll out of the website in October and November, exchange sign ups significantly exceeded the CBO’s projections. In themselves they were never really goals. And hitting them or not hitting them wasn’t the biggest deal. But they were exceeded. The final tally is 8 million health care insurance sign ups through exchanges.

The more telling numbers come from the demographic details of the sign ups – which critics have long claimed made the top line numbers irrelevant.

Most important is the latest data on the percentage of young people who signed up. That number now stands at 28% – a very good number.

The administration did say it had a goal of getting that number to 40%. But frankly that was crazy. And more importantly, wholly unnecessary. That’s the percentage of this definition of ‘young people’ in the population at large. And to think, especially at the beginning, that you’d get 25 year olds who have little money and relatively little immediate need signing up at the same rate as 55 year olds who usually have more money and basically always have greater need is simply crazy.

To get a good sense of what the 28% number means, see Jon Cohn’s article from yesterday in The New Republic. As he notes, this is virtually identical to the number achieved by this point in Massachusetts with Romneycare. That number would have been a key one for insurance carriers who had to make their own predictions about the demographic mix to set rates. So not only does it now seem extremely unlikely that there will be the risk pool ‘death spiral’ that Republicans were hoping for. It also seems much less likely that we’ll see the year 2 “rate shock” they’ve also been pining after.

The dreaded “yeah, but how many have paid yet?” – well, we have those numbers too – about 85%. That number is likely to go up since not everyone’s premiums are due and some will still be corralled by the insurers who are obviously highly incentivized to get people fully enrolled.

These are the internal numbers that might have spelled big trouble if they came out wrong. But they ended up spelling a very different story.

As I noted recently, GOP policy analysts are pretty clear now that Obamacare isn’t collapsing, hopes of the politicals notwithstanding. And strategists have started to hint that flat opposition – repeal with no alternative that provides something like the same range of benefits – may no longer be viable from a political standpoint.

Of course, in the Obamacare gotterdammerung bubble, Obamacare is on its last legs and President Obama will soon resign and ask the country for mercy as he’s hustled off by federal marshals to stand trial for Obamacare and socialism. Back on planet earth though reality-based opponents see the writing on the wall.

Indeed, the new data goes beyond simply saying that Obamacare is stable or is not headed toward a death spiral. It’s better than that. It’s working as expected. The rate of uninsured Americans is going down substantially – especially in states that didn’t try to sabotage the rollout.

They bet on failure. And they lost the bet.

Latest Editors' Blog
  • |
    July 24, 2024 11:12 p.m.

    Today is the end of the first week of this year’s annual TPM Journalism Fund drive. We’re doing everything we…

  • |
    July 24, 2024 6:24 p.m.

    According to some of the country’s most prominent news publications, the Democratic establishment moved quickly beginning Sunday afternoon to lock…

  • |
    July 24, 2024 10:09 a.m.

    As we’ve noted a few times, we’re now in the midst of a race for each campaign to define Kamala…

  • |
    July 23, 2024 6:34 p.m.

    I want to send a huge thank you to the 1601 TPM Readers who have given so far to this…

Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: