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Despite liberal optimism, 3 in 5 uninsured Americans give Obamacare thumb down

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Yesterday was the first day of the rest of the Affordable Care Act’s life. The liberal blogosphere, which has been on tenterhooks ever since (a) the disastrous Oct. 1 rollout and (b) the revelation that the president lied about the law’s scope, is positively ecstatic. Salon’s Brian Beutler assures his reader(s):

Congress did not in fact come back into session over the holidays to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which means that as of today (depending on how you count it) millions and millions of people who were previously uninsured now have comprehensive healthcare coverage.

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent is also heartened by what he imagines to be the GOP’s slow, painful recognition that the law is here to stay. He whiffs in his effort to riff on Elisabeth Kübler-Ross five-stages-of-grief paradigm, titling his piece “The Three Stages of Obamacare Acceptance,” but that is the least of the problems with his analysis.

Both men make the same mistake of buying into the administration’s as yet unproved claim about the number of enrollees to date (a positively giddy Beutler rhapsodically predicts a figure in excess of 10 million by the end of March). But more importantly neither accounts for the ongoing negativity toward the law emanating not just from the public at large but from the “chosen people” in particular. No, I am not referring to the Jews here but the 25 to 40 million Americans heretofore uninsured, whose lives (we keep hearing) are about to take a turn for the better.

A Gallup poll released today finds that a scant 26% of them have visited an exchange website so far. You’d think a gift this magnanimous — nay, life-altering — would have had a more enthusiastic reception.

But it gets worse. As you read down in the poll, you find that 59% have rated the experience of visiting an exchange as “totally negative.” Diehard optimists will attempt to attach significance to the fact that the number is down 4 points from its October-November rating of 63%, but now that the law is “live,” but the stuff is just beginning to hit the fan.

In an article at Bloomberg on Dec. 30, Lanhee Chen presents a list of the features of the law that will kick in 2014. Among these is a “new $60 billion tax on health insurers” that “will be levied relative to premiums collected and directly passed on to consumers.” In addition, many of the 14 million seniors enrolled in the Medicare Advantage program will experience higher premiums to offset the $200 billion in cuts over the next 10 years.

It is still way too early to write off the damage that this law will do or to declare it a permanent fixture. We will all — enthusiasts and non-devotees alike — need to wait and see. To declare victory on either side is to jump the gun.

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