This is why Obamacare is keeping the GOP awake at night

Once the exchanges came online, we were bound to hear stories of devout Republican voters finding that most of what they’ve heard from their party about the Affordable Care Act was wrong, or an outright lie.

It was inevitable. There are too many Americans having health insurance problems to not see widespread improvement, even from a shaky roll out of Obamacare.

Call this story from Think Progress cherry-picking if you want, we’ll see as time rolls on if this is an exception, or the rule. But it’s probably going to be the rule.

This is perfectly in line with what Democrats and health care experts have been predicting would happen all along, and the exact opposite of what Republicans have been saying:

Butch Matthews is a 61-year-old former small business owner from Little Rock, Arkansas who used to wake up every morning at 4 A.M. to deliver canned beverages to retailers before retiring in 2010. A lifelong Republican, he was heavily skeptical of the Affordable Care Act when it first passed. “I did not think that Obamacare was going to be a good plan, I did not think that it was going to help me at all,” he told ThinkProgress over the phone.


Matthews was self-employed between 1997 and 2010, meaning he had to purchase his own plan on the individual market. He chose a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan for himself and his wife that charged a $250 per month premium and had a $2,000 deductible. But the price of that policy kept rising even as it covered fewer of his costs, eventually devolving into his current rate of $1,069 per month with a $10,000 deductible. At this point, it doesn’t even cover his medication or doctors’ visits – particularly concerning considering he had to have two stents placed in his heart in 2006.


That all changed once Obamacare’s state-level marketplaces opened to the public on Tuesday. Matthews knew that, at his income level, the law would help him pay for insurance. But even he might not have expected just how good of a deal he could get: his new coverage will cost him absolutely nothing in monthly premiums after factoring in federal subsidies, and has a deductible of $750.

“Which is a lot different from $10,000,” he pointed out, laughing.

The biggest fear of the professional GOP isn’t that Obamacare won’t work and will be a disaster for the economy, it’s that it will work and will be a disaster for their party. Repealing or delaying it now would take affordable health care away from this lifelong Republican voter, and probably tens of thousands of others (millions, by the end of the year.)

I was re-reading a post by Matt Taibbi last night about how most people actually like Big Government. They love it when politicians advocate cutting services and spending on other people, but the not-so-bad reality is that we’re all dependent on the federal government to some degree:

The truth is, nobody, be he rich or poor, wants his government services cut. Drive up and down route 128 outside Boston, you’ll see a lot of affluent white people waving Romney signs, complaining about entitlement spending. But about four thousand percent of those same people working along the high-tech ring there are totally dependent on the Pentagon contracts that keep doors open at companies like Raytheon and General Dynamics.

Polls routinely show most voters want virtually everyone kicked out of Congress right before every election, but then everyone says they’d vote to reelect their own reps, meaning there’s never a reset.

That’s kind of how it is with Big Government. Despite what politicians say during debates, everyone wants the FDA around so that they don’t die from tainted food or unsafe drugs. Everybody wants safe air travel, and everyone complains about potholes in the road. Suggesting that the federal government should tighten its belt right after a hurricane, tornado outbreak, or earthquake is met with unanimous condemnation.

It was always possible that the Affordable Care Act could make things worse, but that’s mostly because Congress tends not to think things through before it acts. The ACA was never going to fail and make things worse just because it was a Big Government program.

I would sit here and argue that the ACA is a two-fold win for liberals — it made health care better and it’s reminding everyone that Big Government can actually work — but I think it would eclipse the larger point: everyone wants Big Government to begin with, so long as it benefits them. And the ACA is benefiting almost everyone in the country. In retrospect, it would have been amazing if the law didn’t improve on the status quo, and I’ll be surprised if the ACA isn’t as popular as Medicare and Social Security within 20 years.

Now I don’t expect Butch Matthews to become a Democrat or a fan of Big Government anytime soon, and I don’t care if he does or doesn’t. He can hardly be blamed for expecting bad things from the ACA, given all the misinformation he was given by people he trusted, but he gave it a try and came to the truth eventually on his own.

That’s the real win here. After all this fighting, all those laws changed, all that spending, and all those new taxes, health care reform worked.

Yet because Republicans have been trying to sabotage the ACA through blocking Medicaid expansions, there will be people who expected bad things from the law that will get a bad outcome. And that’s a damned shame, because it didn’t have to be this way. The best we can hope for, now that we know the ACA is working, is that people like Butch Matthews will pressure their party leaders into accepting the Medicaid expansion so that we can get 100% out of reform instead of 80%.

About Paul Tenny

I'm not a journalist but I do it anyway. I cover elections and have interviewed television writers and producers.