Obamacare has to provide a positive experience for Democrats to cash in on the Republican failure on the government shutdown. That starts with easy navigation on the central Obamacare website, healthcare.gov (screenshot).
The government shutdown has handed the Democratic Party a golden opportunity. Poll after poll shows real anger against the Republicans for harming the country for no gain. Anger toward the GOP may seal the win in the Virginia governor’s race for Democrat Terry McAuliffe, but the real test will be if shutdown anger can translated into big Democrat gains a year from now in the 2014 midterms. The answer is that they can, if Democrats take decisive action right now on Obamacare.
The Republican Party won big in 2010 by railing against the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. It has been clear for a long time that they plan to use the same strategy in 2014. The difference is that in 2010, Obamacare had just been passed and all most Americans knew about it was what they had heard from partisan sources. By November 2014, millions of Americans will have had direct personal experience with Obamacare via the health exchange networks that Obamacare sets up.
The way for Democrats to keep the United States Senate, take the House, and win big in 2014 can be summed up in five words: make Obamacare a great product. If Americans have an easy time navigating the health exchanges, selecting an insurance plan and, this is the big one, get health insurance at a price they like, voters will reward Democrats in 2014. If Obamacare confirms the dark prophecies of Republicans, the GOP can make the case that their quixotic quest to defund or delay Obamacare had a noble purpose.
So far, the Obamacare rollout has been a disaster. The website to sign up using the health exchanges (healthcare.gov) couldn’t handle the heavy traffic it got on the big October 1st rollout, a serious embarrassment for such a well-funded, high-profile program. It’s entirely possible that the website was attacked by hackers, but that’s something that should have been anticipated.
There is still time to fix this issue, but Obama and Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius need to mobilize their tech team immediately, and use their bargaining power to get more insurers into the health exchanges and drive down costs. On top of that, they need another marketing push to drive people to the exchanges. Sebelius herself could appear in ads showing how easy and helpful Obamacare is.
Obamacare has a number of easy to understand perks: no co-pays on preventative care, kids can stay on their parents’ plan through age 26, and insurance companies have to spend 80% of their revenue on providing care (possibly the most consequential provision of Obamacare).
Republicans are down right now, but they haven’t been defeated. The Obama Administration can bolster themselves and make the GOP look foolish by making Obamacare a success. That is the Administration’s most important task to keep the Senate and take back the House in 2014.