Abstract

The passage and initial implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) were imperiled by partisan divisions, court challenges, and the quagmire of federalism. In the aftermath of Republican efforts to repeal the ACA, however, the law not only carries on but also is changing the nature of political debate as its benefits are facilitating increased support for it, creating new constituents who rely on its benefits and share intense attachments to them, and lifting the confidence of Americans in both their individual competence to participate effectively in politics and that government will respond. Critics from the Left and the Right differ on their favored remedy, but both have failed to appreciate the qualitative shifts brought on by the ACA; this myopia results from viewing reform as a fixed endpoint instead of a process of evolution over time. The result is that conservatives have been blind to the widening network of support for the ACA, while those on the left have underestimated health reform's impact in broadening recognition of medical care as a right of citizenship instead of a privilege earned in the workplace. The forces that constrained the ACA's development still rage in American politics, but they no longer dictate its survival as they did during its passage in 2010.

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