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Policy Studies Journal

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There is a large body of literature devoted to how “policies create politics” and how feedback effects from existing policy legacies shape potential reforms in a particular area. Although much of this literature focuses on self‐reinforcing feedback effects that increase support for existing policies over time, Kent Weaver and his colleagues have recently drawn our attention to self‐undermining effects that can gradually weaken support for such policies. The following contribution explores both self‐reinforcing and self‐undermining policy feedback in relationship to the Affordable Care Act, the most important health‐care reform enacted in the United States since the mid‐1960s. More specifically, the paper draws on the concept of policy feedback to reflect on the political fate of the ACA since its adoption in 2010. We argue that, due in part to its sheer complexity and fragmentation, the ACA generates both self‐reinforcing and self‐undermining feedback effects that, depending of the aspect of the legislation at hand, can either facilitate or impede conservative retrenchment and restructuring. Simultaneously, through a discussion of partisan effects that shape Republican behavior in Congress, we acknowledge the limits of policy feedback in the explanation of policy stability and change.


Accepted version. Policy Studies Journal, Vol. 47, No. 2 (May 2019): 395-422. DOI. © 2019 Wiley. Used with permission.

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