In the last few weeks it’s been trendy, in Republican circles, to claim that anything Democrats do or say unrelated to the Affordable Care Act is a ploy to “distract” attention away from the problematic HealthCare.gov rollout. (Really, anything: filibuster reform or a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran.)
In his speech today defending the law, President Obama seemed to try to take back that narrative, suggesting that all the attention paid to the glitchy rollout is the real distraction — from the fact that the law’s working, the status quo ante was terrible, and that his political opponents have never offered a viable alternative.
On the first two points, it sounded as though he was speaking to the press. He said that “poor execution” had “clouded” the fact that people needed insurance, and that half-a-million people were “poised” to get insurance starting Jan. 1, even given the website’s flaws.
On the third point, he was very obviously speaking to Republicans in Congress who, he said, were “rooting for this law to fail,” but had no solution to offer in its place.
“If despite all the millions of people benefiting from it, you still think this law is a bad idea, you got to tell us specifically what you’d do different to cut costs, cover more people and make insurance more secure,” the president said. “You can’t just say the system was working with 41 million without health insurance.”
Regarding the premise that the law’s working, President Obama has some convincing to do. Public opposition to the law is growing. On the other hand, Americans are likely receptive to the criticism that Republicans are failure-rooters without alternatives, because they oppose repeal, too. Fifty-five percent of Americans think the law is either working well or that it has some good parts, but changes are needed to make it better — versus 43 percent who think it should be done away with entirely.