What later became known as Obamacare reportedly got its start because candidate Barack Obama needed what amounted to an applause line in a speech.
Obama reportedly wanted to steal some thunder from then-frontrunner Hillary Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards in the run-up to the 2008 Democrat presidential primary season. Healthcare reform was then a key element of the Clinton campaign.
A quest to “say something, anything” about the subject led Obama to propose affordable universal healthcare in a speech at a conference sponsored by Families USA, a progressive group. If this report in Politico is accurate, there was no actual plan in place at that time.
According to an Obama campaign adviser in the room…
“We needed something to say. I can’t tell you how little thought was given to that thought other than it sounded good. So they just kind of hatched it on their own. It just happened. It wasn’t like a deep strategic conversation.”
Politico also claims that then-Sen. Obama was still somewhat ambivalent about the healthcare reform issue until sometime in 2008 when he promised the late Sen. Ted Kennedy he would make it his top domestic priority. The president reaffirmed this initiative in a September 2009 prime time speech to Congress, an address which supposedly energized Democrats to push for the law’s passage.
After a contentious political struggle, and with Democrats controlling both chambers in Congress at the time, the US Senate passed Obamacare on a straight party-line vote on Christmas Eve 2009. The House of Representatives narrowly passed the Senate version of Obamacare on March 21, 2010, and it was subsequently signed into law.
During the 2008 campaign, Obama criticized Clinton for including an individual mandate to buy health insurance in her plan. Nonetheless, the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, wound up including an individual mandate, which was contested by Obamacare foes all the way to the US Supreme Court. In a 5-4 vote in June 2012, the high court decided in favor of the controversial individual mandate’s constitutionality. Chief Justice Roberts ruled that the mandate was a constitutional tax, a contention ironically denied by the Obama administration. Speculation is that Roberts originally was the fifth vote to toss out the mandate, but for whatever reason he changed sides at the 11th hour.
Separately, according to various media reports, a so-called family glitch in Obamacare could make coverage unaffordable for some families and leave about 500,000 children without any coverage. A report in Forbes suggests that Obamacare will increase health spending for a typical family of four by $7,450 by 2022 rather than decrease premiums by $2,500 a year as the president claimed.
In an ongoing series of polls, Obamacare continues to be very unpopular with the American people, which is part is prompting efforts on Capitol Hill to defund, modify, or delay the law.