As Republicans wait to address Obamacare, Democrats and supporters of the law appear to gain new footing

This story has been updated.

“Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare could help Democrats do what they have been unable to for seven years: sell the American people on the benefits of the health law,” James Hohmann writes for The Washington Post‘s “Daily 202” news briefing.

“Poll numbers are moving in their direction. Grassroots organizing – from protests to town halls – is en fuego [on fire]. For years, the national and local media focused on the problems with the rollout of the law. But reporters have begun writing much more, instead, about the people who stand to lose benefits they’ve obtained. . . . The tenor of press coverage has shifted dramatically since the election toward emphasizing plusses, rather than minuses, of the law.”

Hohmann lists several news stories, some driven by activities of groups that favor the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, such as the “Save My Care Bus Tour” that stopped in Lexington. Meanwhile, Democrats say Republicans’ lack of action has given supporters of the law time to mobilize.

The top Democrat on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, told Hohmann that he expects that hospitals and health-care companies who benefit from the reform law will give public warnings about the dangers of repealing it: “Medicaid expansion has now become a middle-class benefit.”

The law allowed states to expand the program to people with household incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, $16,394 for an individual or $33,534 for a family of four. That added half a million Kentucky adults to the program. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin asked the federal government to approve changes that his administration forecasts would reduce Medicaid enrollment by 85,000, and the Trump administration is expected to approve.

But in Congress, “Many Republican politicians are speaking pretty openly about the political danger of scaling back coverage,” Hohmann writes. “Lawmakers are getting nervous about facing the kind of contentious town halls that their Democratic counterparts faced in 2009,” when the law was being debated, and several “have already faced big crowds of angry activists back home.” Republican Gov. Paul LePage of Maine said at a town hall meeting, “I’m not sure you’re going to have anyone in Washington with the courage to repeal the ACA.”

That sort of talk may change now that former Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, a strong opponent of the law, has been confirmed as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. He and his fellow Republicans have had little to say about their plans for replacing the law since they gained almost full control of the federal government, and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told reporters Feb. 6 that he has “no idea” when Republicans might start drafting: “I don’t see any congealing around ideas yet.”

President Donald Trump said things would begin to happen once Price was sworn in, but he told Bill O’Reilly of Fox News last weekend, “Maybe it’ll take ’til sometime into next year” to develop a replacement plan, a process that will be “very complicated.” A week later, on CBS‘s “Face the Nation,” Trump adviser Stephen Miller said, “We’re a lot farther along than most people realize” and “We look forward to presenting details … very soon.”

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