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Trump is hoping you won't notice his backdoor repeal of Obamacare

Catherine Rampell on

One of the bigger, and more heartening, surprises of the past year was just how fervently it turned out Americans supported health care for low-income people.

Republican politicians, after all, had been running against Obamacare -- including its Medicaid expansion and income-based subsidies for buying insurance -- from the moment the law passed. And the public appeared to back this agenda: The Affordable Care Act polled terribly.

Yet when push came to shove, and Republicans actually tried to dismantle the health-care law last year, Americans fought back. Hard.

They marched in the streets. They showed up en masse to town halls, shaming and shouting down lawmakers. They jammed congressional offices and phone lines.

Even Trump voters, in focus groups, said they didn't want to roll back Medicaid or other health coverage for lower-income people. Mostly, they just wanted in on that sweet, sweet Medicaid deal themselves.

Likewise, in broader polling, a majority of Republicans held favorable views of Medicaid and wanted its funding to hold steady or increase. Sizable minorities even said they supported single-payer or a public option.

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Clearly "Obamacare" itself had a branding problem all these years, but on the more substantive question -- whether it was government's role to make sure Americans had health-care coverage -- Democrats had won the fight.

Or so it seemed. Republican officials have, a bit less conspicuously than last summer, fought on.

Unable to roll back Obamacare's health-care expansion legislatively, they're now doing so administratively, through a series of technical, boring-sounding regulatory changes.

This GOP effort ramped up last week, when the Trump administration began allowing states to erect new barriers to Medicaid eligibility.

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