Gov't Shutdown Takes Focus Off GOP's Obamacare Opportunity

Some say Republicans missed a political opportunity Tuesday to point at the difficulties Obamacare's new online exchanges were having because news of the government's shutdown dominated headlines. In the meantime, Ohio has become a political battleground for fights over the health law as the state is home to both Republican House Speaker John Boehner -- who is central to repeal efforts -- and Gov. John Kasich, whose support for the law's Medicaid expansion has him split from other conservatives.

Bloomberg: Obamacare Demand Signals Potential Success For Exchanges
Obamacare's opening day drew millions of consumers to the law's core insurance exchanges, offering supporters and investors confidence that if the websites can stay up and running, customers will follow. In New York, officials said their exchange had 2.5 million visitors in its first half hour. California reported as many as 16,000 hits a second. And U.S. officials recorded 2.8 million visitors to the federal website, healthcare.gov, even as it fought technical problems much of the day (Nussbaum, 10/2).

Politico: GOP Goes Off-Message On Obamacare
The Obamacare train wreck happened Tuesday -- and Republicans were chasing a different train. By walking into a government shutdown that's dominating the news coverage, some Republicans are realizing they blew their chance to shine a spotlight on all the website crashes and breakdowns that plagued the first day of Obamacare signup. There was plenty of material for the Republicans to work with. The federal health insurance exchange website gave users error messages, drop-down menus failed, and the system went down for a while on Tuesday morning. State exchange websites got snarled by heavy traffic and spat out error messages, too (Nather, 10/1).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Leaders In Republican States Sit Idly As Residents Start Using New Health Insurance Exchanges
After three years of bashing President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, Republican governors were surprisingly mute on the first day consumers could shop for insurance policies through online marketplaces. But in the 36 mostly Republican states that left the operation of their exchanges to the federal government, consumer interest Tuesday was high, while Democrats and advocacy groups took the lead in promoting the latest provision of the law (10/2).

Politico Pro: Houston Clinic Struggles Through Obamacare Website Glitches
State Sen. Rodney Ellis, a Democrat from Houston who is a strong supporter of the law, pleaded with the public to have patience with the glitches. Speaking at a press conference with other Houston officials to mark the first day of enrollment Tuesday, he added that problems and political fights over big laws are normal. "If you went back and researched when Medicaid and Medicare both went into effect and the big political fights -- each one barely made it," he said. "There are always glitches starting up any program." When asked how long it should take for the federal government to get the sites up and running smoothly, he said only that it would take a "reasonable" amount of time (Haberkorn, 10/1). 

Politico Pro: Ohio: 'Ground Zero' For Nation's Obamacare Debate
Backers of Obamacare here are enraged that the national efforts to undermine the health law are being fueled by their own representatives -- from House Speaker John Boehner to prominent conservative Rep. Jim Jordan. "Ohio becomes ground zero in this battle because of Speaker Boehner and Congressman Jordan," said John O’Grady, the commissioner of Franklin County, which includes Columbus. "The speaker and the House of Representatives need to do what is in the best interest of the citizens of their districts, the people that they represent." But even a bullish pro-Obamacare event Tuesday morning veered slightly off plan when an enrollment demonstration had to be shelved due to the malfunctioning federal website (Cheney, 10/1).

Politico Pro: Launch Day In Ohio Underscores The Medicaid Gap
The last time there was a government shutdown, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, was chair of the House Budget Committee. This time, he’s the governor of a swing state and he’s standing opposite Washington Republicans on one central issue: Obamacare’s massive Medicaid expansion. Kasich has aggressively pursued Medicaid expansion since early this year, and a top health aide told Politico that today's opening of Obamacare insurance exchanges exposes a coverage gap that leaves out the poor and adds fuel to the governor's case for expansion. The poorest don't qualify for subsidies in the new insurance exchanges -- and in states that don't expand, they don’t get Medicaid either (Cheney, 10/1).

And a close look at public opinion of the health law reveals people actually view it less negatively than often reported --

The New York Times: Closer Look At Polls Finds Views Of Health Law A Bit Less Negative
On opening day of the new federal and state health insurance exchanges, a deeper look at how Americans view the Affordable Care Act shows that public opinion is not as negative as has been reported. Although much polling has shown that more Americans disapprove of the 2010 health care law than approve, recent polling has shown that a slice of those who disapprove are critical of the law because it does not go far enough in changing the nation’s health care system (Kopicki, 10/1).

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