Obama signs Affordable Care Act

President Obama signs the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. It's now up to the Supreme Court. (official White House photo by Pete Souza)

The Affordable Care Act featured prominently both in the first day of the Democratic National Convention and in the party platform. It seems the Democratic Party has come to the conclusion they can’t run from what they did and its similarity to Romneycare makes it harder for Republicans to attack it.

One the biggest efforts to sell the new law was having Stacey Lihn speak about it really helped her young daughter by lifting her insurance’s lifetime cap. From a political perspective, it’s a good story to try to put legislative fights in real life terms, but it only serves to highlight what political malpractice the design of the law was.

To give it the illusion of being cheaper, the full implementation of the law was pushed off until 2014 with almost no benefits before then. As a result, it is now over two years since Obamacare was signed into law and it is still extremely difficult to find regular people significantly helped by the law. There are some children helped by regulations, some young adults who can stay on the parent’s plan, several thousand in the high risk pools. Overall though, the number of people that it has had a really big impact for are very few and far between. Odds are most voters don’t know anyone who has been helped at this point.

A perfect example of the difficulty of finding regular people significantly helped by the ACA was the 2012 State of the Union. One of Michelle Obama’s guests was a young adult who had cancer and supposedly got to stay on his parents’ plan thanks to the new law. It later turned out though he would likely have been able to do that even without the ACA because of a state law.

If the ACA was designed to start expanding coverage to millions of people before the election, that tangible experience for regular people could have changed opinions about the law and Obama. Instead, by delaying the law Democrats are forced to sell it using only a very few real examples of it in action. Mostly it is sold based on promises that weren’t even designed to materialize for several more years.

Trying to run on an “achievement” that for practical purposes still hasn’t been achieved yet is not easy.