Obamacare goes fully into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, and the people who imposed it on a reluctant country -- President Obama and congressional Democrats -- are no longer celebrating their handiwork. The first prominent Democrat to wring his hands in public was Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., who two weeks ago voiced his fear that implementation of the law was becoming a "train wreck." This emboldened other Democrats to express their own forebodings after fingering their worry beads in private for the last several months. Things got so bad that even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid -- normally Obama's most consistent Senate advocate -- embraced Baucus' train wreck metaphor.
It seems that nothing concentrates the mind like a hanging or an election in November 2014. A week after his public blubbering, Baucus threw in the towel on his re-election effort and, as National Journal's Josh Kraushaar reported Friday, plenty of his Democratic colleagues may be having similar thoughts: "In the face of intraparty criticism that implementation of his health care law will be a 'train wreck,' new polls showing support for the law near all-time lows, and even the Democratic nominee in next week's House special election calling the law 'extremely problematic' -- there's plenty of evidence piling up to believe health care will be a political millstone for Democrats in 2014."
Making the millstone even heavier was a study published this week by the New England Journal of Medicine. The study compared two large samples of low-income people. Roughly half of them got expanded health benefits through Medicaid while the other half did not. Megan McArdle summarized the results in the Daily Beast: "People who had more generous coverage consumed more health care. But they weren't healthier. In fact, the people who had less generous coverage reported being less worried about their health and taking less sick time, presumably because they weren't going to the doctor to find things to worry about."
That result was devastating news for Obamacare advocates, because, as The Washington Examiner's Philip Klein reported, "during the health care debate, liberals argued that government had a moral duty to enact legislation that expanded health insurance among lower-income individuals. This was rooted in the assumption that obtaining health insurance translates into improved health."
So in the comparatively short space of a few weeks, the president's signature domestic policy achievement has gone from being a cornerstone of Democratic strategy to a severe political liability. Remember when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Obamacare had to be passed so the rest of us could see what's in it? These days, a lot of Democrats are hoping Americans keep their eyes shut.