Health Reform Turns 1. So What?

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In case you happened to have avoided seeing the hundreds of articles and press releases announcing the one-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare: FYI, it’s today.

Both sides of this issue have been working hard over the past week to guide the news narrative around this momentous occasion. See here, here, here, here, here, here, and courtesy of ardent Obamacare foe Rep. Steve King, this particularly nuanced assessment of the law.

But despite their best efforts, neither supporters nor critics have gained any ground in the PR war. Both groups have held hundreds of events and conference calls and published op-eds in newspaper across the country. It seems they’ve either balanced each other out or the public is simply numb to their rhetoric. I don’t put much stock in polls about health reform because they are usually based on over-simplified questions. Health care is a particularly complicated issue and so polls can be easily skewed one way or the other. But a new CNN poll – which finds about a 50/50 split between those opposed to the law and those who support it or think it’s not liberal enough – proves that nothing has really change in public opinion over the last year. Americans remain equally divided.

This means a few things. First, it means that all the energy, time and money being expended inside and outside the Beltway trying to move public opinion is being canceled out, or wasted. This includes the advocacy groups on both sides of the issue taking donations and making TV commercials and staging rallies. It also includes the House GOP efforts to defund or repeal the law, which are going nowhere so long as Obama stays in the White House and Democrats control the Senate. And includes the Administration PR mavens writing blog posts and making promotional videos for the law.

Second, the stubbornly consistent 50/50 split over the law means it’s going to be a while before it feels like settled law. Yes, it’s conceivable that health reform could be overturned by the Supreme Court, but barring that, it’s highly unlikely the law is going away or that it will be severely undercut by Congress. Expect the sweeping overhaul – most of which has yet to kick in – to remain a point of contention so long as it seems that neither side has an upper hand. It’ll be a main issue in the next GOP presidential primaries, so long as Mitt Romney – who supported a state-based version of the federal law while he was governor of Massachusetts – remains a frontrunner. And it’ll be a main issue in the 2012 general election, especially if someone other than Romney gets the nomination.