Since its inception, the Affordable Care Act has attracted the ire of opposition for mainly being a Democratic idea. The GOP has tried more than once to repeal the law. When the repeal did not work, it tried for a replacement of the law. The idea of replacement didn’t work, as the alternative did not hold ground against the already established Obamacare.

After the launch debacle of healthcare.gov and other state exchanges, the GOP utilized the fiasco to fan the flames of discontent among the public and strongly pushed for a complete repeal of the law. [Side note: We haven’t seen the last of this push, the exchanges should be featured prominently during the upcoming elections in November.] The exchanges were staggering under the combined pressure of failed technology, a broken enrollment system and continuous pressure from the opposition and the public to deliver on ACA’s promise. To add to the woes of the Obama administration, the Republican side launched a well thought-out negative ad campaign that was meant to break the law’s remaining hold on the health insurance market.

However even after that, Obamacare managed to get 8 million enrollments – more than its original goal of 7 million enrollments for the first open enrollment period. So, how did that happen? Well, a new study reveals that those ads actually served to boost enrollments in states and help Obamacare gather more attention, which eventually translated into more enrollments for the law.

State Exchange

The study, conducted by the Brookings Institution, reveals that the GOP spent about $450 million on ads that were designed to weaken support for the law and expose its shortcomings. The ads were distributed across states, with Democratic states receiving more ad dollars. The Brookings Institution broke down the data on a state-by-state basis, and found a surprising trend – the states that had the most money dedicated to Anti-ACA ads were the ones which ultimately received the most enrollments. There was a negative correlation in the amount of money spent on these ads. The more the negative ads bombarded the people, the likelier they were to increase enrollment in the Obamacare exchanges.

Experts suggest that the anti-Obamacare ads actually increased public awareness by showing them the details of the law and made them more aware about the subsidiary benefits available to consumers. It is a classic case of ‘no publicity is negative publicity.’ Experts also think that in states where the negative ads saw the most penetration, people believed that Obamacare benefits would be repealed in the near future and this encouraged them to take advantage of what they thought was a one time chance to get better health insurance under subsidized rates. It seemed a classic case of a limited time offer, where marketing gimmicks lured people into the purchase.

A special mention of Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina was made in the study. Since these states are nearing a hot senate contest shortly, the percentage of ads spent was highest in these states. Demonstrating the negative correlation clearly, Kentucky and Arkansas both exhibited a strong surge in enrollments that put them ahead of nearby states. The overall enrollments in Obamacare was more than expected, with Arkansas showing a drop in uninsured rates by 7.10 points and Kentucky exhibiting a drop of 8.35 points. Other notable mentions of the study were West Virginia with a drop of 10.74 points, and Oregon with 10.54 points.

Another interesting fact revealed by Brookings Institution study compares the ratio of money spent on negative and positive ads. The negative to positive ads weighed 15 to 1 ratio, with negative ads outperforming the positive ones by a large margin. The study ultimately concludes that the overall spend contributed toward making Obamacare stronger in these states and pushing people to enroll in the law.

While it is assumed the Obamacare and its exchanges will play heavily in the November elections. Several Republicans are sidelining ACA and focusing their midterm strategies in other avenues. It should be interesting to see what impact, if any, the November elections have on the ACA.

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