The past six weeks have offered little but negative headlines about ObamaCare. So it should come as a relief to Democrats, who had begun to distance themselves from the White House in recent weeks, that there are signs that the party's big ObamaCare freakout may have been premature.
A handful of polls this week found that despite the horrible ObamaCare rollout, there was a silver lining: Americans' views on the law itself have remained virtually unchanged, and voters are still willing to give the administration time to fix its mistakes. At the same time, there are reports that enrollment in health care plans via state-based exchange marketplaces are surging, even as the federal marketplace, Healthcare.gov, remains stuck in tech support limbo.
In other words, Americans still think the law can work — and, in one big way, it perhaps already is.
First, a brutal Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 55 percent of voters disapproved of President Obama's job performance, while two-thirds thought he had botched the implementation of his health care law. Worse, as with other recent polls, a majority of respondents said they did not think Obama was trustworthy.
Still, respondents split evenly at 49 percent over whether ObamaCare itself was "unworkable," or if the administration could eventually get the law running properly.
Further, a Reuters survey found that opposition to ObamaCare ticked up just three percentage points, to 59 percent, since September. And according to a new National Journal poll, only 38 percent of adults thought the law should be repealed — statistically unchanged from July when 36 percent said the same.
In short, Americans are showing more patience than the lawmakers and talking heads who have declared the law an unmitigated disaster. After all, the exchange marketplace is barely six weeks old — and it's now showing signs of improvement.
Last week, the administration reported that only 106,000 people had enrolled in new health care plans in October, well off the target of 500,000. Yet there are reports that enrollments are starting to pick up the pace.
As the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday, states with their own health care systems "are on track to hit enrollment targets for 2014 because of a sharp increase in November." Though California only enrolled 31,000 people last month, it had already doubled that total through the first two weeks of November, according to the Times.
Several other states, including Connecticut and Kentucky, are outpacing their enrollment estimates, even as states that depend on the federal website lag far behind. In Minnesota, enrollment in the second half of October ran at triple the rate of the first half, officials said. Washington state is also on track to easily exceed its October enrollment figure, officials said. [Los Angeles Times]
Fourteen states built their own exchange marketplaces, and their systems have fared far better than the federal government's. About three-quarters of all October enrollments came through state-run exchanges.
And the feds' marketplace, too, may be finally getting on its feet. While only 27,000 people signed up for coverage through Healthcare.gov in October, another 23,000 had already done so by mid-November, according to the New York Times.
As the administration has been quick to point out, only 123 Bay Staters signed up for RomneyCare in its first month of existence. Yet 36,000 people enrolled in the final month before Massachusetts' individual mandate penalty kicked in, a sign that the federal enrollment pace should pick up as well.
If the White House can get the federal website running, as promised, by the end of the month for the vast majority of Americans, enrollments should climb even more. That's a very big "if," but one that could determine if public opinion swings in favor of — or further away from — the president and his health care law.