Advocacy groups argue that a similar wait-and-see approach is playing out among other populations. Republicans have been very effective at turning opposition to the individual mandate provision into a broad attack on the validity of the entire law. Proponents of the law continue to say the components of the new law are popular, even if the overall legislation isn’t.
Ethan Rome, the executive director of Health Care for America Now, said the constant challenges to the law both in the House and in the court system have worked against them.
“That creates doubt about whether the law is going to be in existence,” Rome said. “I believe strongly that people are going to embrace the law in substantially higher numbers once they believe the law is here to stay.”
Rome’s group spent $53 million campaigning for the law and has spent about $10 million defending it.
But the grass-roots activists who were most fiercely engaged in the legislative battle, especially those who lobbied for the public option, have shifted to other issues. That has left defending the health care overhaul to professional advocacy organizations, and the highly partisan nature of the debate has made things difficult.
“Our coalition is nonpartisan, so we are trying to be careful not to identify ourselves with the Democrats or the Republicans,” said John Rother, the president and CEO of the National Coalition on Health Care, which has spent about $1 million educating health care providers about the new law. “It’s pretty near impossible.”
Indeed, if there is one thing both sides agree on, it is that the controversy over the health care law is really not about the individual mandate, or even health care.
“Those are specifics ... that really [don’t] matter to me,” said Gregg Cummings, a member of a Tea Party Patriots chapter in Iowa, who stood outside the Supreme Court on Monday holding the “don’t tread on me” Gadsden flag that has come to signify the movement. “What matters to me is that taxpayer monies are being used to pay for other people’s health care insurance, and that puts our country in greater debt.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.