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National Politics|By Amy Walter, October 23, 2013
By now just about every single media outlet, comedian, pundit and columnist – left, right and center – has flogged the Obama Administration for their poorly designed and terribly managed health care website. But, what many are missing is the fact that those who are uninsured and struggling to get onto the website (or are giving up all together), aren’t the ones that should worry Democrats the most in 2014. It is the people who are insured, and aren’t going to ever try to log-on to HealthCare.gov, who are going to determine the political fall-out from this mishap in the midterm elections.

About 81 percent of Americans currently have health care coverage today – either through an employer, individual coverage or Medicare/Medicaid. That means that the vast majority of Americans are not going to interact in any way, shape or form with this website.

Washington Post health care reporter Sarah Kliff reminds us that “just 7 percent of the population — or 24 million Americans — are expected to use the health insurance marketplaces by 2023.”

Although a recent Pew poll found that more than half of those who have visited the site currently have insurance, it also found that 65 percent of those who have insurance do not plan to visit the site.

The problem for Democrats is that those who do have health insurance are actually more pessimistic about the law than those who don’t have it and may be trying to log onto the faulty website right now.

This pessimism isn’t new. Since June of 2011, those who have insurance have viewed the new health care law more negatively than those who do not have it.

Additionally, more than one-third of those who currently have health insurance believe that the new law will make things worse for them and their family – almost 10 points higher than those who don’t have health insurance. And, while 36 percent of those who are uninsured think that they and their family will be better off under the new law, just 23 percent of those who have health care feel that way.

September Kaiser Health Tracking Poll

You and your family will be… Under 65, Insured Under 65, Uninsured
Better off 23% 36%
Worse off 34% 25%
Won’t make much difference 36% 32%
DK/Refused 7% 7%

To be sure, the long-term success of Obamacare depends on getting the young and healthy into these health care exchanges. Getting the website – and the PR around it – fixed will be critical to ensuring that they do.

That said, many worried consumers are watching the fumbling response to this website by the White House and are thinking, “These guys are going to somehow screw up my current health care. I’m either going to be paying more for less. Or getting less access to my doctors. Or worse.”

In fact, this is already happening as thousands of self-insured Americans are getting letters from their insurers telling them that their plan is being cancelled for one of several reasons that have nothing to do with the policy holder. Florida Blue is cancelling 300,000 policies, while Kaiser in California is cancelling 180,000 policies. Some of these people may indeed find options that offer better coverage or lower deductibles. But, the only way they will be able to figure this out is by trying to log onto the dysfunctional HealthCare.gov site.

For those who currently have health care, there is great fear that bad stuff happening with the website presages bad stuff happening to them personally. It was this fear that drove the backlash against Obamacare in 2010. And, while there may not be any “real life” consequences for the vast majority of consumers next year, just the fear alone of more bad things happening may drive the 2014 narrative as well.