Congress's two-week Easter vacation is the first long break since Obamacare's open enrollment, meaning a lot of Republicans now have to figure out how to temper their repeal-and-replace mantra for the newly insured. That has led to shift in the conversation — back home, leaders have to acknowledge that people are benefitting from the law, and then justify repeal.
As Politico notes, most anti-Obamacare Congress members emphasize that their constituents are complaining about the law, but the success of the enrollment period in some states is forcing some Republicans to acknowledge that it's not all bad. "I’ve never said the Obamacare law would not have some benefits to some people,” Maine Sen. Susan Collins said, according to Politico. Others are still challenging the idea that the benefits are real. “Are they truly benefiting? I don’t know that," Florida Rep. John Mica said. It's sort of a weird inverse of the infamous August 2009 townhalls, when Democrats were attacked by Tea Party activists over a health care law that hadn't been passed yet, and more than once the events descended into violence. Supporters of the law likely won't rise to those levels, but the shift in Republicans' tone is meant address their concerns, as well as their existence.
North Carolina Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry called the newly insured a "narrow band of folks who have benefited from this law," but that wasn't the first time McHenry had to concede a point to Obamacare. Last August McHenry was accosted by a woman who said her son was denied coverage for pre-existing colon cancer, and might still be alive if Obamacare was around. McHenry admitted that he "agreed with Obamacare's ban on denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions," according to The Huffington Post.
Tempered criticism is also evident on the campaign trail. The Wall Street Journal reports that Republican candidate Scott Brown is hoping Obamacare will be the issue that forces out Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire. The state only has one insurer offering plans, and 10 of the state's 26 hospitals aren't in the networks. But even Brown has had to take a step back from some of his earlier criticisms. As CBS noted last week, during his campaign kick off Brown "did not repeat a claim he made earlier this week about a survey showing 'insurance premiums are going up 90 percent in New Hampshire because of Obamacare.'"
Brown is intimately familiar with how awkward the newly insured can make things for the right. Last month, he visited the home of GOP state representative who said he was saving nearly $1,000 a month thanks to Obamacare. That could happen more often — New Hampshire approved its Medicaid expansion last month.