Obamacare

Selling Obamacare: Will It Ever Work?

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whitehouse.gov

How many times must Obamacare be sold? In April, the Obama administration confirmed that it would spend another $8 million marketing the health law, following up on a $3 million marketing campaign from last fall. And last week, Time reported on new efforts to market the law to the young and healthy adults that are crucial to the law's success. A TV ad has already been released, and Time's report says that "at the White House, health care implementation has become an obsession."

The big problem? The law is unpopular, still. And "that unpopularity threatens one of the law's most ambitious goals"—the stability and success of the health insurance exchanges that are the centerpiece of the law. The administration's response to that problem looks rather like a government-run version of what you might expect from a beer company introducing a new product: social media campaigns, commercials, and partnership possibilities with professional sports.  

Will it work? One never knows, but years of efforts by the administration and its allies to market the law haven't worked before.

Before the law was passed, Democratic supporters insisted that opposition would fade quickly after it became law. "The minute the president signs the health care reform bill, approval will go up," Bill Clinton said in 2009. But it didn't, not then, and not later. Indeed, with 43 percent of the public saying they have unfavorable views of the law, and just 35 percent saying they favor it, public opinion is less supportive of the law than when it passed in 2010.

The health law's backers have grumbled since the beginning that it only polled poorly as a result of misinformation from critics—and that the public would really like the law if they actually understood its benefits. "There still is a great deal of confusion about what is in [the reform law] and what isn't," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told ABC News just months after the law passed in March, 2010. "We have a lot of reeducation to do."

And so they announced plans to begin reeducation. In June 2010, a coalition of administration allies said they would spend $25 million to promote the health care law, with a special focus on fighting mischaracterizations that might harm the electoral prospects of Democratic candidates, according to The New York Times. There would be a "nationwide, milltimillion ad offensive – organized in consultation with the White House and funded by sympathetic groups and wealthy individual donors," The L.A. Times reported in August of that year. 

But a few months later, a liberal activist coalition released a sobering report concluding that policy arguments made for the law were failing to take hold. A team of political scientists later found that support for the health law probably cost Democrats 25 seats in the House that year—and with it, majority control.

In 2011, documents surfaced showing that the Obama administration had spent some $1.4 million coordinating with PR firm Ogilvy to run paid media and search-based online advertisements intended to promote the health care overhaul. According to Kaiser's health tracking poll, unfavorable opinions about the law rose above 50 percent for the first and only time that year.

A little less than a year later, in May 2012, HHS confirmed that it had signed a $20 million contract with a separate PR firm to market the health law's preventive benefits. The $8 million and $3 million marketing contracts followed. California's health exchange director, meanwhile, recently said that the state will spend a whopping $250 million—drawn from federal grants—to market the law over the next two years.

It's all leading into this year's big sales pitch, which the administration is conducting with the help of two non-profits with White House ties so strong they might as well be shadow administration agencies. One is Enroll America, a new group focused on enrolling individuals in the health law led by the former deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. (The administration is supportive enough of this group that HHS Secretary Sebelius has made fundraising calls on its behalf.) The other is Organizing for Action, the successor to President Obama's former campaign organization. 

Three years after the law passed, the administration and its allies are still struggling to sell it to the public, despite multiple campaigns and millions of dollars spent. Will these new efforts be any different? With the law's major coverage expansion provisions set to kick in next year, it's possible. But that also means the stakes are higher now. It's not just about poll numbers any more. "The exchanges need roughly 2.7 million healthy 18-to-35-year-olds to sign up to be solvent," according to Time. "If too few choose to enroll because they don't know about the law, don't like it, or feel they don't need insurance, the exchanges will fail. And so will the law." The administration knows this, and will no doubt work especially hard to sell Obamacare this year. But the question remains: Is anyone buying?

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  1. Sebelius told ABC News just months after the law passed in March, 2010. “We have a lot of reeducation to do.”

    2013 Update: We’ve been building camps as fast as we can. We should be ready for a full re-education effort by 2015.

    1. I was just thinking that: do these bozos even think about the words they use?

      1. No.

        In Newspeak, words are context-free constructs that only mean what the speaker wants them to mean at the moment they are spoken.

        1. Of course, thank you for the clarification. So when Bush talked about a “crusade” against terrorism he was an ill-informed offensive moron. When Sebelius talks about re-education anybody who has qualms is a conspiracy nut.

          I think the post-modernists have a lot of good points but this issue of language is really a problem. As you point out, it can mean whatever the speaker (or hearer) wants it to.

          1. Speaking as someone who slogged through Derrida: Fuck Deconstructionism. The idea that you can recontextualize words that obviously meant something to someone when they were written (schizoid logorhea excepted) into whatever the reader wants is the worst idea in the history of philosophy.

            The insight that people essentially do this recontextualization anyway is one thing. But to assert that rather than to struggle to close the communication loop with the writer, one may skip this step and make a good of it is monstrous.

            1. The slog sucks, doesn’t it? At the end, you have nothing – you realize you kept waiting for a point to be made, but there was never anything there, and so you strictly lost the time it took to try to figure out this utter nonsense.

    2. If they need young people to participate, why not get a celebrity they can relate to, like dead Andy Griffith ?

  2. This is shaping up to be an epic train wreck. Certainly some Democrats up for re-election in 2014 are already sweating. I wonder if there will be an uptick in awareness and dislike in August, when (IIRC) the regulations forcing Catholic institutions to provide birth control will kick in.

    I just don’t see how the exchanges can be ready in time. Massive IT projects tend to be late and over-budget, especially when run by governments. Projects that were far simpler have failed.

    1. I’ll just leave this here.

    2. And then there’s the challenge to Sebilius’ plan to illegally provide subsidies to people on the Federally run exchanges. If that goes as it should, a lot of people in over 30 states are going to be feeling a lot of pain from this.

    3. By the way, the Obama Administration is no longer calling them “exchanges.” In the most recent pronouncements they have taken to calling them “marketplaces.”

      1. It can be hard to keep up with Newspeak.

      2. A wise choice. It isn’t government that fails in the “marketplace” but a failure of the market, of course. When the government mandated and run marketplaces crash and burn to the ground they will call it a “market failure”.

  3. If you think it’s unpopular now, just wait until people start losing their tax refunds.

  4. the Obama administration confirmed that it would spend another $8 million marketing the health law

    With all due respect,why TF is the government “marketing” laws? Ignorance of the law is no excuse; it *is* the law, like it or not; and Sequester Austerity!

    If they *must* market laws, they should market the Bill of Rights. 8-(

    1. If they did that, then people might figure out that the federal government has been ignoring the Constitution for many decades now, and We Can’t Have That, Now Can We?

  5. With all due respect,why TF is the government “marketing” laws?

    Because despite all of their guns and thugs, they need a cooperative populace to enforce their laws.

    1. Whoops, that was in reply to Rich. I guess I’ve gone P Brooks on this thread.

    2. “Excuse me, there, neighbor. I see you haven’t fully complied with Requirement 7r, Paragraph 3h6(ii), Section 12j of the Affordable Care Act. Please assume the position while I dial 911.”

  6. “If too few choose to enroll because they don’t know about the law, don’t like it, or feel they don’t need insurance, the exchanges will fail. And so will the law.”

    And when that happens, the Obamacare supporters will immediately proclaim it to be a “market failure” and proclaim that a single payer government run healthcare system is the only solution.

    1. Which has been the plan all along

      1. Yep. So, you see, there was no real reason to read the bill.

    2. And so will the law.

      I suppose “failure” will be the bankruptcy of the whole mess — exchanges and insurance companies? I do not fear this zombie law, failed yet unrepealed, stalking the land. Nay, I fear the fix-it men from all parties who will rush in to save it piecemeal with breaks for unions and injections of fresh taxpayer blood, or to “advance” it to single-payer rather than drive a stake through its heart.

  7. You know for a political and intellectual genius, Barack Obama sure does suck at getting people to appreciate his benevolent brilliance. I wonder why that is?

    1. People are getting tired of the Eternal Campaign Season.

    2. Because he really is too smart for us:

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/…..ml?hpid=z3

  8. California exchange director, meanwhile, recently said that the state will spend a whopping $250 million?drawn from federal grants?to market the law over the next two years.

    If MillerCoors and ABI can convince Americans to spend $90B annually on their piss lagers, then I don’t see why this marketing effort is too far-fetched.

    http://beerpulse.com/2013/03/b…..-2013-025/

    1. People don’t drink that piss because it is marketed to them. They drink it because it’s cheap and manly. (Okay, they think it’s manly because of the marketing, I guess.)

      1. Sometimes I legitimately want to drink 12 “beers” for 15 dollars in one sitting. Working on the yard yesterday, for example. When I want it to taste good or get actually intoxicated, craft beer is the way to go.

        1. You drink 2 good beers, then 10 Bud Lights, and spend 16 bucks on the total of 12, but you can’t taste the Buds anyway.

          1. When is this the case? Its pretty much A or B for me. Did they suddenly start carrying craft beer at sporting events?

            1. Did they suddenly start carrying craft beer at sporting events?

              No. This is why you tailgate. Anyone who enters a stadium sober is doing it wrong.

            2. Sure had it at the Harrisburg Senators game I was at.

              1. You’d need to drink to watch that.

  9. “The exchanges need roughly 2.7 million healthy 18-to-35-year-olds to sign up to be solvent,” according to Time. “If too few choose to enroll because they don’t know about the law, don’t like it, or feel they don’t need insurance, the exchanges will fail. And so will the law.”

    Then maybe you should have made the exchanges priced correctly for healthy youngsters. But then you would have had to charge differently based on health and age, and heaven forbid you price insurance based on risk.

    1. “But then you would have had to charge differently based on health and age, and heaven forbid you price insurance based on risk.”

      Heaven forbit they admit that what they’ve dreamed up isn’t actually insurance at all – since it’s NOT priced on risk and ISN’T the result of voluntary, uncoerced contractual arrangements.

  10. Obamacare is like the Wagon Queen Family Truckster. You think you hate it now, wait till you drive it.

  11. Remember: effective October 1, 2013, virtually every employer in the country, even those with less than 50 employees, will be required to provide every employee and new hires with a government-prescribed notice of their right to purchase insurance through exchanges, now known as “marketplaces.” Every employer will thereby be enlisted as a propaganda arm of Obamacare for the purpose of advertising Exchanges/Marketplaces/Whatever they are.

    Note that employees are still free to purchase insurance through agents or directly from the insurer…but they will not be told this in the government-prescribed notice.

  12. Hey Pete!!!!
    The whole point of Obamacare is for it NOT to work!! the point of ObamaCare is to totally and utterly destroy the U.S. health and insurance industries so he can swoop in and impose National Health care, all the while blaming obstructionist Republicans in Congress. Quite clever actually.
    Vjk

    1. Obamacare is going to cost him the Senate. If that’s his plan, it won’t work.

  13. George Washington stated that taxing people to promote things which they do not support, is tyranny. I agree, and I’ll go further and say that government advertising is:

    a) tyranny
    b) a waste of taxpayer money
    c) a subsidy to only liberal media corporations
    d) a way for politicians to put campaign cash in their pockets (from the media)

    IMHO, when government advertises, those in charge should be impeached.

  14. Government run healthcare: All the efficiency of the Post Office coupled with the compassion of the IRS.

    The issue de jour of “selling” this boondoggle is just another means of funneling money to liberal groups, that will in turn contribute money back to the DNC. And I’ll bet their tax-exempt status is granted with all due haste, since they are in full accord with the administration.

    If any professional sports league comes out in ads for this, they are beyond foolish – why risk getting entangled in what is at best a controversial subject that may alienate half of your fan base?

    And nary a mention in this article about the clamor to exempt all the Congressional critters from participation in Obamacare. Grassley’s amendment was taken full throat to silence the critics, now the very Dems who voted for this want exemptions – or they’ll quit Congress? Talk about hypocrisy. And all the Unions that came out in favor, yeah – they want exemptions too. Then Sen. Kerry inserted a little do-dad for MA, everybody gets to pay for MA’s “rural” rate of Medicare compensation – “rural” means Nantucket in MA!

    1. why risk getting entangled in what is at best a controversial subject that may alienate half of your fan base?

      Because Obamacare (read-the IRS) has a significantly important lever; the NFL is currently classified as a non-profit.

      “C’mon, it’s for the good of your country! Besides, you wouldn’t want an audit, would you?”

      1. Messed up the italics on that, oops.

  15. Because health insurers must provide coverage for people that are already sick, why would a healthy person buy health insurance? They can buy it when the get sick, and pay no more than a healthy person. Imagine if Obama required fire insurance to cover houses that were already burning down.

  16. “The exchanges need roughly 2.7 million healthy 18-to-35-year-olds to sign up to be solvent,”

    Since the penalty, “tax”, for non-compliance is less than the premium charged for the insurance, and since insurance carriers are forbidden to exclude pre-existing conditions, there is absolutely no incentive for young healthy people to enter the “marketplaces” unless or until they get sick or injured. Witness adverse selection. Obviously, this law was written and designed to fail!

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