Will Rising Premiums Shift Political Tides?


After numerous weeks of positive media coverage for Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and down-ballot Democrats, this week finally brought a negative news cycle as it was announced that Obamacare premiums would increase by 25 percent in 2017. Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Health Care for America Act, was signed into law in 2010 during President Obama’s first term. Since the law took effect, Republicans have both constitutionally challenged the legality of the legislation and campaigned strongly for the law’s repeal. Obamacare has become a strong campaign tactic for Republicans across America.

Drawing on frustration with the new healthcare law, Republicans added six Senate seats and 63 House seats in the 2010 midterm elections. Obamacare has remained a central issue in this year’s campaign with Trump vehemently calling for its repeal and replacement, while Secretary Clinton said she supports the legislation but believes that changes must be made.

Although Obamacare was successful as a Republican campaign tactic in 2010, conservative challengers failed in a 2012 constitutional challenge through National Federation of Independent Business V. Sebelius, with the Court ruling 5-4 in favor of President’s Obama signature legislation. Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, even President Obama would admit the initial Obamacare rollout was far from perfect. The website for Americans to register crashed frequently. Privately insured Americans saw their premiums soar as clear flaws in the bill were exposed. All the ups and downs with Obamacare finally culminated in the 2016 election campaign, which President Obama remained removed from throughout the primary process. Candidates on both sides debated the legislation and its future standing in America. When Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton became the presumptive nominees of their parties the debate continued in a more partisan way. Trump criticized Obamacare openly and demanded it be repealed while Secretary Clinton mostly defended the law.

While Obamacare has frequently been among Trump’s largest criticisms of Obama and Clinton’s policy, the issue reemerged in full force this week when a report surfaced stating that premiums for Americans would increase by 25 percent in 2017. Trump seized on this report and began attacking Obamacare with full force. He spoke about how much the employees at his South Florida golf resort Doral hate Obamacare and choose not to use it. Trump has spent the week outlining the negative aspects of the legislation at rallies and the emphasizing the necessity of its repeal and replacement under his own administration.

Trump’s attacks have definitely been at least somewhat effective. Recent polls have shifted slightly in his favor —with some even now giving Trump a slight edge in the all-important states of Florida and Ohio. While the news about the increase in premiums alone almost certainly will not be enough to tip the election in Trump’s favor, it could make a big difference for down-ballot races.

The race for control of the Senate is tightening by the day. Current fivethirtyeight projections give the Democrats a 66 percent chance of both winning the presidency and taking control of the Senate by winning at least 50 seats. Realclearpolitics, however, projects that the Democrats will gain two seats, leaving them at 48. The final Senate numbers will be crucial when the process of actual governing begins for a new administration in 2017. With election day a mere 12 days away, Obamacare and the new premium increases will likely remain a central topic of debate. The repercussions of the Affordable Care Act remain controversial and complicated, and may very well factor into determining the final electoral math that decides the presidency and the U.S. Senate.

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