Obamacare

Affordable Care Act's Unpopularity Helped Trump Win 2016 Election

What was Obamacare, in the end, but an arrogant overreach by an elite out of touch with the rest of America?

|

Richard B. Levine/Newscom

Call it the Jonathan Gruber election. Gruber is the Ford professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He got his Ph.D. at Harvard. As a White House consultant, he helped to design Obamacare and was then caught afterward on videotape explaining its passage by talking about "the stupidity of the American voter."

Well, if anyone is "stupid" in this story, it's not the voters, but the academics that in their hubris designed an Affordable Care Act that became so unpopular that it became a decisive factor in Hillary Clinton's defeat. These economists and health care experts—Jonathan Gruber and people like him—have fancy graduate degrees, but they designed a law whose results aren't exactly making them or the politicians they advised look like geniuses.

Asra Q. Nomani, a Muslim woman immigrant who voted in Virginia for Donald Trump, explained in a Washington Post column that she did so in part because, "I am a single mother who can't afford health insurance under Obamacare."

A friend of mine reported that while volunteering for the Clinton campaign in Pennsylvania, she encountered one voter who had just gotten off the phone with her health insurance company, "battling an astronomical increase in premiums. A cancer survivor, she had lost her favorite doctor when she went onto Obamacare two years earlier. Now her rates were going up." That voter wound up supporting Trump, too.

A Politico postmortem of the Clinton campaign reported, "The soaring Obamacare premiums announced last month hurt Clinton, some said."

Even Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, conceded in a post-election article: "Americans want reform to Obamacare—?Democrats included. We must bring down the costs of health insurance and the cost of health care."

What was Obamacare, in the end, but an arrogant overreach by an elite out of touch with the rest of America?

If that seems like an exaggeration, look at the election data. In Cambridge, home to Harvard and MIT—Gruber Country—Clinton won won 89.2 percent of the vote. That's nearly Saddam Hussein level. It was the highest percentage of any town or city in the entire state, 28.4 percentage points ahead of Clinton's 60.8 percent of the vote statewide in Democrat-leaning Massachusetts. In New Haven—the Cambridge of Connecticut, home to Yale—Clinton drew 86 percent of the vote. The only place she did better in the entire Nutmeg State was Hartford, where she drew 90.2 percent. In Hanover, N.H., home to Dartmouth College, Clinton won 84.9 percent of the vote—by far her strongest showing in any town in that entire swing state. F

For a comparative baseline, Clinton drew 54.5 percent of the vote statewide in Connecticut, 47.6 percent statewide in New Hampshire, and about 48 percent nationwide.

Other than Ivy League college towns, areas that went overwhelmingly for Clinton include places like Manhattan (85.9 percent); San Francisco (85.3 percent), and Washington, D.C. (93 percent).

Trump mentioned Professor Gruber by name in the second presidential debate. When a reporter from the Boston Business Journal reached Professor Gruber for his reaction after the election, he pronounced himself "stunned" at Trump's victory but nonetheless characterized the Affordable Care Act as "one of the greatest social accomplishments of our lifetime."

If the "accomplishment" is that the American electorate is now blaming their high health care bills on Democratic politicians, rather than on doctors, drug companies, or insurance executives, it is indeed pretty great, though perhaps not exactly in the way Professor Gruber intended it to be.

It is, as well, however, a cautionary tale for Republicans who hope to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. If voters are going to start blaming politicians for their health insurance and medical bills, the anger in the next election could be directed at the Republicans who now hold control of the White House and both houses of Congress. If the Republicans hope to do better than President Obama, Clinton, and Professor Gruber, they may want to start from the premise that American voters aren't stupid.

Advertisement

NEXT: Politicians vs. Tasty, Delicious Food: Q/A with "Food Freedom" Advocate Baylen Linnekin

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

      1. “Two plus two equals four.”

        – Thomas Jefferson

        GET THE FUCK OUT SLAVER!

    1. Well, that is certainly disappointing.

      1. That is incredible.

        1. Seriously. What a cool defect!

    2. Dammit, that was going to be my post for the PM links.

    3. The UVA I attended (1995-99) was a fairly apolitical place. Sad!

      1. Some of the social justice stuff had started to creep in by the time i got my hugeass diploma in ’03, but still. Damn.

      2. I’d like to think it still is. The noise you here are the small percentage that will go into a lifetime of dedicated public service.

    4. Just keep piling on the DERP, SJW’s. You’re just one more hissy fit away from convincing the rest of us that you’re vision of Utopia is correct after all. /Sarc

    5. But what do the paying customers think?

    6. I’m certain few of them understand just how eloquent Jefferson’s condemnations of slavery were. He knew it was evil and was nearly run out of the State of Virginia for expressing his ideas publicly.

  1. It was more than an overreach. It wasn’t really meant to help anyone and it wasn’t meant to control costs. It has done neither. People who were on medicaid are still on medicaid. The middle class got totally screwed over with out of control costs and less availability of care. It’s a gigantic clusterfuck and the only thing it was intended to do was get more control over people’s lives for the federal government. Kill this shit, Republicans. Now’s your chance. It’ now or never, because it’s going to be one hell of a long time before anything like this passes again, thank God.

    1. Our hopes boil down to:

      1) The Republicans not reaching across the aisle
      2) Every near-retirement/death SC justice retiring or dying
      3) Trump not nominating retards
      4) The Senate not obstructing the non-retards
      5) The Republicans not caving in when the Democrats try to Bork the non-retarded nominee
      6) Some Todd Akin-type saying something goddamn stupid, thus pitching Congress back to the Dems

      Yeah, me neither.

      1. Since Harry Reid eliminated the filibuster last session for most appointments, and said he would do so again this year including SC appointments, I doubt Republicans will let Democrats filibuster much of anything. Harry counted his chickens before they hatched, and now they’re coming home to roost.

        1. Harry has but one chicken, a featherless variety that he thorouly enjoys choking.

          1. the Nevada Broiler

          2. I suspect that chicken has had a limp and broken neck for half a century.

  2. Are we supposed to be surprised?

    1. Yes, since a lot of commenters here have been predicting this since day one, we should be shocked.

  3. There is approximately a 0% chance that a sane bipartisan “fix” to Obamacare will happen, and those odds were the same regardless of who won the presidential election.

    1. It’s not fixable. How the hell do you fix this mess? You know, when I go to see a potential new client and they show me a piece of software that needs ‘fixing’, I analyze it and sometimes I have to tell them ‘You’re better off just rewriting this, it’s not really cost effective or worth the effort to fix this. Let’s just start over.’ Obamacare can’t be fixed, it must die. And fuck Obama’s or anyone else’s fucking legacy. This is about Americans, it’s not all about you, Obama, get over it.

      1. Of course. I was vaguely referring to this part:

        “Even Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, conceded in a post-election article: “Americans want reform to Obamacare??Democrats included. We must bring down the costs of health insurance and the cost of health care.””

        Also, there is approximately 0% chance it will be repealed either. Even if Republicans try to undo it they won’t tear it all up and leave a blank, they will “reform” it and it will be nonsense.

        1. As hard as it may be, the Republicans will find a way to make Obamacare even more expensive.

          I seem to remember that back around 1996 the Republicans wanted to slow the rate of growth of the school milk program from 4% to 2%. After the Democrats got finished saying that Republicans wanted children to die of malnutrition the Republicans compromised… on a 6% increase!!!

          1. They won’t get rid of Obamacare, no matter how broken it is.

            It’s like government-supplied crack. The dealers are all making bank. They gave people a taste and many of them are hooked (especially since the law required them to be). The high price of crack pisses addicts off, but they still want it and the dealers still want the money.

            They’ll “reform” it rather than cut it. Same as any massive entitlement, they become essentially impossible to be rid of.

  4. “but nonetheless characterized the Affordable Care Act as “one of the greatest social accomplishments of our lifetime.””

    Huh. Who would have thought Gruber would regard helping get Trump elected as a great social accomplishment.

    1. If you like your medicaid, you can keep your medicaid. The rest of you are off the hook!

    1. I’m getting sick of these hacks calling each other ‘dedicated public servants’. Parasites, nearly all of them.

  5. Um, Top People have assured me it was racists and misogyny that done it.

    Maybe you should do your research.

    1. Obama is going to retire as Uncle Top.

        1. Sorry, sorry… The Man…

          1. A plan …..

      1. So now we know what he’s been doing on the down low.

  6. Obamacare was a deliberate attempt to wreck the healthcare industry so that it can be replaced with fully socialized medicine. Fully socialized medicine’s purpose is to exert control over every citizen in ways Americans have never seen before.

    I cant help but be somewhat hopeful but that voice in the back of my head tells me that the R’s are going to screw up their chance of beating socialized medicine to death with a shovel.

    1. They will find a way.

  7. “If the Republicans hope to do better than President Obama, Clinton, and Professor Gruber, they may want to start from the premise that American voters aren’t stupid.”

    Is it a reasonable premise to assume that American voters aren’t stupid?

    1. It isnt unreasonable to assume people are stupid, the mistake comes when someone thinks they are smarter than everyone else.

    2. Well, if American voters are stupid, they still somehow do a lot to maintain the stuff that makes you comfortable. Somebody produces the means to keep: your ass inside out of the weather, the lights on, gasoline at the pump, groceries on the store shelves and your running water running. You’re pretty safe from cholera because of the dummies at the sewage treatment plant or the dimbulbs who pump septic tanks.

      And so forth.

      1. What if the guy who runs the septic plant well votes for more welfare spending?
        Or if the woman who manages the logistics of your local grocery store votes for stricter zoning laws?

        People are best suited to making decisions for themselves. The problem arises when it comes to making decisions for other people.

    3. It’s not about that, the pols are as stupid if not more, it’s about freedom.

    4. On this topic most voters are ignorant, or at least unreasonable, and that’s why the Republicans will disappoint. Most people do not want to see preexisting condition coverage go away. Nor children’s coverage until 26. Nor the low out-of-pocket maximums Obamacare mandated. We can do a few things to improve what’s in place, such as eliminating mandated benefits, allowing sales of policies across state lines, etc. and maybe this will slow the rate of premium increases, but getting premiums lower won’t happen.

  8. We must bring down the costs of health insurance and the cost of health care

    Competition or GTFO. It is the best way of reducing costs while improving quality.

    1. It is the ONLY way. Markets always exist; but they only work their magic when left alone. Government interference guarantees their incentives are skewed and screwed.

    2. Absolutely. And we need to reduce the cost of regulation. One thing no one ever suggests is enacting federal health insurance regulations (light touch I hope) that would pre-empt state regulations. Having to deal with the myriad and complicated state laws is a nightmare for insurance companies.

  9. I believe that Obama thought the reckoning would come after his terms would be up and would be someone else’s problem. But if the inevitable high premiums and lost consumer choice of Obamacare helped to cost Clinton the election, then Obama is indeed getting his comeuppance, in the form of a trashed legacy, not just on health insurance policy but anything else about to be wiped out by his successor.

  10. And on a personal note, THAT’S A 15MB JPEG.

    1. At 230 times more expensive than it should be, it represents the health care market under Obamacare.

      Feel their pain!

    2. That explains why it wouldn’t load for me…

  11. Just so I’m clear, though, the evidence cited to support the author’s claim consists of a couple of anecdotes and the fact that areas with elite universities (like where Gruber works!) and major urban areas voted overwhelmingly for Clinton?

  12. On the bright side for Republicans – if they could somehow turn the clock back 10 years, absolutely nobody would bitch about their HMO’s this time. I would be fucking ecstatic to ask my primary care physician for a referral for a $20 co-pay specialist.

  13. You forgot to mention that she also demolished Trump in the Reason staff poll (by my count, six to nothing).

    Libertarian Moment!

  14. It had to be. When people got their notices and realized their premiums shot up three times for less coverage that’s all they needed to see what a cynical piece of wealth distribution shit it was.

    For the collective my ass.

  15. It seems to me that if you gutting this monstrosity getting rid of the coverage mandates, the individual mandates and the mandate to cover pre-existing conditions, along with the Cadillac tax and the medical device tax, the system would largely fix itself. It wouldn’t be perfect but it would likely go back to being pretty close to what it was and that would be a huge improvement over what we have now.

    1. The trouble is that folks like my former boss, a big time local GOP fundraiser, support the Age 26 and pre-existing conditions features. You’ll never see repeal as long as supposed conservatives back this crap.

      1. Repeal will never happen – the Democrats do get some say in the matter and they are emotionally vested in the idea of Obamacare remaining the law of the land. Anything that gets through the Senate will be a reform, not a repeal.

        1. I don’t see why the Democrats get any say.

          They passed it with a pure partisan majority, while working around the filibuster. We can repeal it the same way.

          1. Amen! Repeal it without a replacement … other than the establishments of Health Savings Accounts combined with retirement IRAs, with a provision for tax free inheritance.

  16. In Cambridge, home to Harvard and MIT?Gruber Country?Clinton won won 89.2 percent of the vote. … In New Haven?the Cambridge of Connecticut, home to Yale?Clinton drew 86 percent of the vote.

    I do vaguely recall hearing a couple decades ago how Harvard was the liberal one while Yale was the conservative one

  17. “We must bring down the costs of health insurance and the cost of health care.”

    So, in other words, even though the Affordable Care Act was allegedly supposed to “bring down the costs of health insurance and the costs of health care” it needs fixes to “bring down the costs of health insurance and the costs of health care”? Can’t say I really trust these people to implement changes that would get this done.

    1. Remember when it was the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act? They dropped the “Patient Protection” quickly enough when it was clear that it didn’t protect patients. Now they can get rid of “Affordable”.

      Presumably, they’ll start calling it the Care Act. Or, since few under its direct purview can actually get care, perhaps just Act.

      1. “ACT III”, and each participant gets a bag of microwave popcorn in exchange for their premiums and a $100 copay per bag.

  18. Trump seems pretty insistent that the preexisting coverage mandate will stay. If they get rid of everything else (especially community rating and the coverage mandates) then I think we can live with it.

    Hopefully they get a bit more creative and institute some actual market-based and pro-growth reforms instead of just rolling back the truly terrible bits of the PPACA, but Republicans were never really known for creativity.

    1. In reply to John @ 4:33.

      1. Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

      2. John 3:16 OGTFO

    2. Trump seems pretty insistent that the preexisting coverage mandate will stay. If they get rid of everything else (especially community rating and the coverage mandates) then I think we can live with it.

      In the sense that such an insurance market isn’t sustainable and will fail, I suppose we can live with it.

  19. “…Gruber […] characterized the Affordable Care Act as “one of the greatest social accomplishments of our lifetime…”

    This guy ought to be smart enough to learn something.

  20. RE: Affordable Care Act’s Unpopularity Helped Trump Win 2016 Election
    What was Obamacare, in the end, but an arrogant overreach by an elite out of touch with the rest of America?

    Obamacare was a Godsend.
    Only through healthcare can the ruling elitist turds control us better.
    But have no despair fellow slaves.
    Trump the Grump said lately that “he is thinking about keeping certain parts of Obamacare.” This way the republican ruling elites can control us as well as the democrat ruling elites have.
    Who says the ruling elites are out of touch?

  21. Asra Q. Nomani, a Muslim woman immigrant who voted in Virginia for Donald Trump, explained in a Washington Post column that she did so in part because, “I am a single mother who can’t afford health insurance under Obamacare.”

    I need some help with the media style-guide again, folks. Bear with me. Is Muslim a race, or is it a religion?

    Let me try: Douglass Ellsworth, a Buddhist male immigrant who voted in Virginia for Donald Trump…

    Was her religion mentioned because of the Trump angle? Ok. Was her country of origin not mentioned while pointing her out as an “immigrant” because it was less important than the Muslim angle? If she had the same (Arabic sounding) name, but was a Christian, would this story have made the news?

    1. Donald Trump Elected President
      Muslims, Women, Immigrants Hardest Hit

  22. BTW, let’s give credit where due:
    This is *OBAMACARE*, and don’t you forget it.

  23. “they may want to start from the premise that American voters aren’t stupid.”

    I beg to differ.
    After all, 60 million idiots voted for an uber cronyist authoritarian from NY – and another 60 million voted for a uber corrupt queen who ran a bribery empire.

    If these 120 million idiots would do their research and attempt to learn that ultimately government destroys and enriches the corrupt cronyists like Trump and Clinton then perhaps we could get a Johnson in office.

    1. I believe Trump is pretty proud of his Johnson, so I guess we’ll have one in office….

      1. Haha, yup, First Johnson…

  24. If you get the Obamacare, when you file your tax return, Comrade Gruber of Central Committee says in addition you have to file his form 8962 and attach it to your tax return

    http://tinyurl.com/gp6whha

    To assist you, Comrade Gruber of Central Committee has an 18 page set of instructions.

    http://tinyurl.com/hng9yj6

    What could be easier? Comrade Gruber of Central Committee is here to assist.

  25. “Americans want reform to Obamacare??Democrats included.”

    Typical politician. Special interests lobby politicians to restrict the market for their benefit. Politicians follow the will of the donors, and restrict markets and competition. Prices go up, politicians blame the free market, then enact more regulations and controls which still wind up benefiting their donors. They attack people calling them insensitive, greedy, not caring racists, and thieves (while forcing individuals to fund their bullshit programs at gunpoint with no choice other than property confiscation, imprisonment or death if they resist).

    After individuals have had enough of their shit after finally (in most cases they don’t learn, or learn too late) realizing they are affected by the govt’s policies and now they are feeling such effects, cry that “reform” is needed instead of scrapping the entire thing. Even those that want to repeal it, want to “replace” it and have different top men run the show as if it’s going to get better.

    Folks say they fear chaos in the absence of gov’t. This is bullshit as they ignore all of the chaos that surrounds them already. They fear the loss of control over others, and the inability to hide behind politicians that rob, steal and violate the liberty of others at gunpoint on their behalf. They would actually face real consequenses for trying to defraud, rob, and attempt to force or coerce others into doing things against their will.

  26. It would be cheaper to completely replace Obamacare and replace it with *gasp* the free market.

    And if people currently covered by Obamacare that wouldn’t be covered by regular insurance (supposedly 10 million) are freaking out over getting dropped, he’ll, it would be cheaper to grandfather just those people in to a health welfare program. Not very libertarian, but it’d be a hell of a lot cheaper than forcing consumers buying health insurance to cover the added costs to those 10 million.

  27. “These economists and health care experts?Jonathan Gruber and people like him?have fancy graduate degrees, but they designed a law whose results aren’t exactly making them or the politicians they advised look like geniuses.”

    Yeah, uh, *I’m* an economist and…

    ObamaCare is crap. It’s effects are *exactly* what any competent economist would have (and did) predict- higher premiums, worse care. There are studies of the actual quality of health care internationally, you can’y just use raw infant mortality or life expectancy data. You need to control for other factors. What they show is the US has the best quality health care on the planet (note, this is pre-ObamaCare). We have lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality for other reasons, like having older mothers on average. Of course the socialized medicine pushers didn’t bother checking because their agenda was purely ideological.

    That said, please phrase things like “These economists and health care experts…” more carefully. While there certainly are economists out of touch with reality, most of us aren’t.

  28. until I looked at the paycheck saying $4730 , I did not believe that…my… brother woz like actualy bringing in money part time from there computar. . there friend brother started doing this for less than 7 months and resently paid for the morgage on there home and bought a new Cadillac …….

    >>>>>>>>>http://www.centerpay70.com

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.