The bottom line, according to Laszewski: “We have literally millions of people each impacted a bit differently.” That’s hard to quantify and turn into a neat political argument.
We know more about Obamacare’s beneficiaries. First there are the roughly 3 million low-income people added to the Medicaid rolls (even though it is not clear how many would have qualified for the program had Obamacare never existed). In any event, they have coverage — if not actual quality health care — and it’s all paid for by the taxpayers.
Then there are the people who receive federal subsidies to buy health coverage through Obamacare’s exchanges. When President Obama announced recently that 8 million people have “signed up” for coverage through the exchanges, that means perhaps 6.5 million have actually paid for it. And only some of them receive taxpayer-paid subsidies: In late March, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that “3.5 million people have qualified for a total of about $10 billion in annual premium subsidies, or an average of about $2,890 per person.”
Add to that young people who are now remaining on their parents’ coverage until age 26, the fairly small number of people who were in the past denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition, and others who in some way have a better deal under the new system, and you have the universe of Obamacare’s beneficiaries.
How does that compare to the number of people who have gotten a bad deal from Obamacare? It’s impossible to know right now, and that makes it impossible to make much of a political calculation.
Even what appears to be Obamacare good news can mean bad news for potential voters. For example, this week the Congressional Budget Office released a report, much noted by Obamacare supporters, announcing that the program’s subsidies will cost the government less than originally forecast. But Obamacare advocates didn’t dwell on how that came about.