After surviving a Supreme Court decision and a presidential election, the Obama administration’s health-care law faces another challenge: a public largely unaware of major changes that will roll out in the coming months.
States are rushing to decide whether to build their own health exchanges and the administration is readying final regulations, but a growing body of research suggests that most low-income Americans who will become eligible for subsidized insurance have no idea what’s coming.
… Seventy-eight percent of the uninsured Americans who are likely to qualify for subsidies were unfamiliar with the new coverage options in a survey by Democratic polling firm Lake Research Partners. That survey, sponsored by the nonprofit Enroll America, also found that 83 percent of those likely to qualify for the expansion of Medicaid, which is expected to cover 12 million Americans, were unaware of the option.
One of the many justifiable criticisms of how Obamacare was passed was that so little thought was given to creating a political constituency for the bill — a substantial segment of voters who would clearly see how they would benefit from it. (Thus the suggestions at the time for simply expanding Medicare to everyone, or at least those over 55.) Now we learn that this wasn’t just a problem in 2009, but in 2012 as well.
Kliff alludes to the GOP trying to gum up the works, mentioning that “Initial White House efforts at outreach caused congressional Republicans to accuse the administration of using taxpayer money for political gain.“ But if nothing else, there’s not much reason President Obama himself can’t launch a personal barnstorming tour to promote the new law’s benefits.
In fact, it should be obvious that he could have done so this year, when he was already criss-crossing the country for, um, other purposes.
But I guess it’s yet another example of Democratic “leaders” being afraid to challenge right-wing messaging. You see, for all the flak Romney got for calling 47% of Americans dependent on government handouts, that frame is why Team Obama couldn’t brag about easier, more affordable access to health care being on the way.
Instinctively, too many voters would assume that they would never see any of these taxpayer-financed goodies (even if, as in the Kliff articles, they were in fact eligible) — instead, folks would believe the subsidies were going to, you know, “undeserving” beneficiaries. (Hint, hint.) And Obama didn’t feel brave enough to challenge that assumption.
Perhaps now, with literally nothing to lose, he’ll come around. Or perhaps not.